Mrs H’s Cold Brew Coffee, in words and pictures!

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Mrs H’s Cold Brew Coffee, in words and pictures!

Okay, there are admittedly LOTS of ways that cold brew coffee can be made and I’ll spare you the long discourse explaining them all. This is my way.  (And I did it MYYYYYY WAYYYYY!!!) Yes, I sang that last part in my head as I typed it. Someone else probably already figured out the method I use a long time ago, and possibly even posted it somewhere on the web, truly there is nothing new under the sun, but as far as I know this is my own invention.  This is my easy-peasy small batch method, and these are the things that you will need to make it:

• 1 quart-sized Mason jar with lid

• Cool, filtered water

• A high-quality food grade fine mesh stainless steel (paperless, washable/reusable) cone-shaped filter with stand. The little stand that came with mine has a slip-proof band around the base of it, and the cone filter has a silicone grip on the handle – both are VERY HELPFUL! You can get it at Amazon. It’s pictured below.

* This is a handy little device for lots of things.  You can make hot coffee by simply placing coffee grounds into the funnel part, placing it on top of your mug, and pouring boiling water over them into a large mug.  Makes for a very cheap coffee maker!  Also awesome for when the electricity goes out and you can’t use your fancy espresso machine.  All you’ve got to do is figure out how to boil water – perhaps on a gas stove, in the fireplace or firepit, on the BBQ, or using a Sterno can under your water kettle. You can also use it to make hot tea.  Drop your loose leaf tea into the bottom of the cone and then set the cone down into a large mug.  Pour hot boiling water over the leaves and let them sit and soak a bit.  Then just lift the cone out of the cup and tap the leaves in the trash or garden. 

** If you don’t have one of these fancy little devices and don’t want to go out and buy one, you can, in a pinch, use a cone type paper filter placed inside of a large automotive funnel, and pour your water through that.  Plastic is not good to use with hot stuff (and especially non-food grade plastic).

• A hand crank burr coffee grinder, that can be adjusted to grind coarse, medium, and fine espresso grinds. Or you can just purchase your coffee already ground, if you want. I would suggest getting the whole bean and grinding it at the store at least.

• A glass or ceramic pitcher (I have a French coffee press which works perfectly, plunger removed, pictured below)

• Organic Fairtrade whole coffee beans (you can get really fancy on this and insist that they are mountain grown, in the shade, at cooler temperatures, in Peru, and all that jazz, if you insist). I personally like the dark roasted (French Roast) beans, and if you are a fan of Alton Brown, he says they should be coarse ground, but I’ve used finely ground and it worked out okay.  If you’ve developed a discriminating pallet you’ll probably have your own preferences.

Step One

Fill a clean quart-sized mason jar with cool, filtered water. (I actually use Hydrogen/Alkaline water – I go through about 5 gallons in a couple weeks)

Step Two

Grind the beans (or use pre-ground beans if you prefer, but just make sure they are a good quality).  For a quart of water I use 4 heaping tablespoons of coffee grounds.  FYI: My husband dropped this bit of trivia on me this morning –  whole coffee beans will keep in the pantry for about 3 months, or in the freezer for about a year.  Ground coffee beans will keep for about 1 month in the pantry, but not at all in the freezer.  Freeze dried instant coffee will last a few years, unopened, in the pantry and indefinitely in the freezer. 

* I use organic fairtrade coffee beans because they are grown without pesticides, and I think they also have less chemicals in the processing.  But, I’m actually an organic everything person now that I’ve experienced cancer.  It may cost a little more to buy organic things vs non-organic, but when you are mostly just shopping in the produce section and limited by the lesser amounts of organic stuff available, I think I actually spend less money than I used to on groceries to feed myself.  It’s honestly the Junk food, processed foods, drinks, and snack foods that are expensive.  If all you are buying are the basics (fruits and veggies, little bit of dairy, tiny bit of meats, and an occasional bread product) and you prepare it all yourself, you’d be surprised at how much less it costs to eat and how much better you feel.  

** I use a burr grinder (recommended by my daughter) to get uniform pieces of bean.  Alton suggests a coarse grind.  I have used medium and fine grinds and had adequate success.  Again, it’s a taste preference. Experiment and see if you can tell a difference.  An electric burr grinder would be a nice tool too, if you can afford it.

Step Three

Add the coffee grounds to the water in the Mason jar, seal with a tight-fitting lid, and give the jar a good but gentle shaking to mix everything up. 

Step Four

Place the Mason jar on your kitchen countertop and let it steep at room temperature for about 24 hours.  I give mine a little gentle shake and swirl several times during the day.

Step Five

Set the cone filter on top of the ceramic pitcher and then pour the coffee through it to separate out the grounds. 

Step Six

Dispose of the grounds however you see fit.  You can toss them in the trash, or use them for compost in the garden.

Step Seven

Pour yourself a freshly cold brewed cup of wonderfulness, adding whatever sweetener you like, or not, and a splash of Half and Half, or not.  Save the remainder of the freshly brewed coffee into a clean Mason jar with a tight fitting lid and store it for up to a week in the fridge. 

P.S. Alton uses a concoction of honey, Agave Nectar, Blackstrap Molasses, and a splash of water mixed together in a squeeze bottle to sweeten his cold brew.  He also augments his coffee beans with chicory.  Check out his Good Eats episode on the Food Network. I don’t care for sweet coffee, just creamy, and of course I only use organic Half and Half. 

BTW: Ever notice how far out the expiration date is on organic milk products? Yes, it’s more expensive than the regular stuff, but it also lasts three times longer in the fridge.  You don’t end up tossing out half used gallons of stinky, expired milk.

Step Eight

Wash everything.  Store it away.  Start all over again in a week – or sooner if you want to live on the wild side and drink 2 cups a day. LOL

NOTE: You could use a French coffee press for making your coffee.  In fact, I have one of those too. It makes fabulous hot coffee. But it works equally well for cold brewing. After adding the water and grounds to the press, and stirring, cover it with the lid, but leave the plunger thingy all the way up until after the coffee has brewed for 24 hours.  During the brewing phase periodically remove lid and stir the contents throughout the day and just leave it sitting on the kitchen counter.  The next day slowly press the plunger down to force the spent grounds to the bottom of the appliance.  Pour out your beverage and enjoy.  If using your press and you have leftovers, you’ll want to transfer the coffee to another container so you can remove the spent grounds before storing the coffee in the fridge.  The smaller press would be a great option for when you just want to make a fresh batch every day.  Less water will require less grounds, of course, than what I use for my Mason jar method.  But maybe you like your coffee STRONG? You’ll have to experiment until you get it just the way you like it. 

The Long Monologue…

Now here’s my story part … if you are interested. I’ve tucked it all the way down here, instead of at the top of my post, so that you wouldn’t have to suffer through a sea of words just to get to the silly recipe, which is sometimes all you really care about, right? You’re welcome! But seriously, this is interesting so please keep reading. LOL

Soooooo, here’s the thing about cold brew coffee.  And this could just be me – as I am totally aware that I do have some pretty unique and uncanny eccentricities about me, but it’s entirely possible, and so I warn you up front, that once you’ve tasted this magnificent, eye-popping beverage you may find yourself as instantaneously and hopelessly swallowed up by its intoxicating qualities as I am. 

I mean, it would be easy to make an idol of the danged stuff.  Seriously!  I spend most my days obsessed and utterly preoccupied with the thought of the taste of it.  And I’ll tell you, God and coffee go extremely well together, as it turns out, and it would be really easy to just let the two of them be friends, and I be the glue that holds them both together, FOREVER!  That’s how bad my craving tries to become. I even have all the accoutrements for making it – well, maybe not ALL of the accoutrements. But I also have a supply of beans in my freezer at all times, as a prepping exercise, should things on earth go suddenly south, and I not have access to my morning beverage. Does that make me a coffee snob?  Eeeks!  

Honestly, it’s on my mind from the minute the last drop of my singular morning cup has rolled over my tongue and slidden (is that a word?) past the gauntlet of my tonsils and uvula, over my windpipe, and down my gullet.  I barely make it to lunchtime before I am tempted again, and then there is the afternoon craving, and the suppertime one, and another that hits me when I sit down to watch a little bit of TV before bed. I tell you, I find myself counting down the hours to my next cup like the count down clock of a sports period. I can hardly wait for morning.

It’s my delirious daydream right up until I finally fall asleep at night.  I’m sure I probably dream about it too, if I could remember my dreams. I wake up in the morning giddy and excited, uttering the words “coffee, coffee, coffee” in my head like a maniacal lunatic and a broken record, over and over again, as I grope for my slippers by the soft rays of sunlight gleaming through my bedroom windows, and dance (yes dance) on my tippy-toes, spinning in little circles all the way to the kitchen, wagging my tail as I go.  Okay, some of that might be an exaggeration. But I confess, I’ve got the fever!!!!!  Which could explain why I am here taking pictures and blogging about it a mile a minute at 2:30 in the afternoon. I need help, but please don’t help me. Just run, while you still can, if you haven’t already fallen into the trap.

Of course I’m trying to be funny, which may or may not be working. I really do have to make a conscious effort to take dominion over this particular craving and make my body submit. So I limit myself to one small cup in the morning. I make myself drink water first, take my supplements, and let them absorb before hitting my bloodstream with caffeine. I walk during that time (for an hour, and sometimes two) and spend that time praising God and praying, and then I let myself have that one lone little cup of joe while I read the scriptures or listen to a preaching podcast, or do my housework. Drinking coffee, thank goodness, isn’t a sin. If it were I’d really be in trouble, because the Bible says that if our eye causes us to sin, that we would be better off poking it out. I’d sure hate to have to cut out my tongue (although I know Jesus was speaking metaphorically). I’m just trying to be grateful for the one cup and not greedy or gluttonous for more. Just this small taste of addiction gives me sympathy for those with serious addictions for other things much more serious, like alcohol, drugs, sex, money, and food. The word of God says that no temptation overcomes us except what is common to men, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I have the power to overcome because the Holy Spirit lives in me. The word of God tells me to take captive every though to the obedience of Christ. I can either submit to Him or fall prey to my cravings. I’m choosing the former.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”

1 Corinthians 6:12

UPDATE: My thoughtful oldest daughter read my blogpost and sent me a text asking if she could send me some decaf. OMGosh…Decaf. Duh. How stupid of me. Guess I was having a blonde moment, or maybe a “senior” moment, or a chemo brain moment??? Actually, I’m pretty sure I was just born this way. LOL

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Coming soon … 

>>>>>> Mrs. H’s Hibiscus Tea recipe! <<<<<<<

This is how I stayed hydrated through my chemo treatments and kicked my iced tea habit. You don’t want to miss it, so push the subscribe button and stay tuned.

VBS Summer Fun for Kids

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VBS Summer Fun for Kids

I saw my first hummingbird this morning.  She was little and green and so delicate looking.  She glided ever so wistfully on the warm dewy breezes with the skill and elegance of a ballerina. She came right up to the rain spattered pane of glass where I was looking out. She’d caught me in my jammies and sitting at the table, still groggy from sleep, holding my first cup of freshly brewed coffee in front of my face. My hands wrapped around the handle on one side and the smooth side on the other. I’d held it to my face just to let the steam rise up and tickle my nostrils with its tantalizing aroma. I was just about to take a sip when this little buzzing beauty stopped by. 

Now she was fluttering outside my window, her wings barely visible, and her tiny eyes glaring in at me. I could almost read her thoughts as I watched her, and I think she was trying to tell me, “Hey lady, where’s the juice?”  Oh my goodness, the juice! Sure enough, the chains were dangling, but the feeders were not there. They were put away since Christmas.  I’ll get right on that, I thought to myself, and wanted to tell her, just as soon as I finish this magnificent cup of coffee.

I held my cup away from me, elbows perched on the table, and watched as my graceful guest took a quick flutter over the garden and then buzzed by my flower pots. I had two of them hanging on hooks on the porch and they were filled with some kind of succulent with red blossoms. Yes, I suppose that is what attracted her. In just a moment though she had lost interest in my vegetation, turned on her wings, kicked her engine into hyper-drive, and sped on a beeline off into the vast blue sky.  “Come back! Come back!  I wanted to say.  “I’ll get them!”  But it was too late.  She was gone. Perhaps someone down the road has their feeders out for her.  

As the last drop of coffee dangled from the brim of my big ceramic mug onto my waiting tongue I rousted myself into action.  First I went to the cupboard where last I had put my feeders after washing them out last fall, put the kettle on the counter by the sink, and then got to work making a brand new batch of sweet nectar.  As it was cooling I disassembled my pretty green glass feeders, then filled them up with the glistening liquid, and hung them on the empty hooks outside hoping the little darlings would give me a second chance tomorrow.

With that chore accomplished, I went to get dressed, made a list for the grocery shopping, and ran out the door before the heat of the day. As I drove down the street I happened to notice a banner hanging outside of a church. VBS it said, and the theme and the dates were listed. Wow, that’s right, summer break from school was right around the corner, wasn’t it! The town was soon to be inundated with restless little people with nothing to do. It got me thinking how much those VBS banners, tied to t-posts on the church lawns, were a lot like my hummingbird feeders. If they hang them, kids will come!!!

I thought back to my days of young motherhood and how VBS was a major staple of our summer activity list. It’s definitely how I entertained my kids when they were young. I felt with all the secular imbibing their little minds had taken in over the school year, they could really use some Spiritual flushing and rejuvinating over the summer. In fact, if I dealt my cards right, we could spend all summer doing the VBS circuit, and they could see how exciting the Bible can be. It was the perfect antidote to classroom withdrawal. The kids would get to hang with their friends, learn about Jesus, do crafts, play games, sing songs, have snacks, be active, and it all came with a minimal cost, a couple of canned goods, usually, and a small daily offering, .50 cents or a dollar maybe, tops.

I got to thinking how this old lady, with more time on my hands than good sense, could invest in her family, rather than be lazy, sitting on my couch all day, gazing out the window and watching life pass me by. At the same time, what a blessing it would be to get to relive some of my fondest memories of young motherhood.

As a young mom, I always looked so forward to summer. I thought of it as a time to unplug from secular mainstream and snuggle in with God. I thought of all the ways I could help try and tutor my kids in the subjects they struggled with so much during the school year, but we didn’t have the time to address. I thought of all the projects that needed done, that we could do together. Mother’s Day was usually about the time I put on my rose-colored sunglasses and started daydreaming of all the fun we were going to have over the summer. I envisioned the glorious bonding experiences – just the kids and me.

I always took advantage of the bargain priced summer passes for the roller-skating rink, Summer Movie Matinees, and swim lessons at the swimming pool, and could usually count on the cousins visiting for a few weeks in June or July, which would include camp-outs, sleep-overs, sunbathing on the roof, trampoline bouncing, playhouse lounging, bike riding, park picnics, hiking adventures, and various other backyard shenanigans. I made sure to have a freezer full of popsicles and all the stuff on hand to make Orange Julius’s and French toast.

I also remember how just when we were all starting to slip into lazy mode, sleep-in-til-8am, stay-up-til-midnight, TV-binge-watching, and oh so unproductive summer routines, every once in a great-great while I would selfishly crave a morning to myself, to spend outside in the fresh air, in my Bible with a hot cup of coffee, listing to a favorite worship CD, soaking up some blue skies and summer sun, the smell of blooming lilac bushes wafting in the air, green grass tickling between my toes, and the various birdie’s serenading. Ahhhhh!!!! the dew-covered serenity of it all!!! And what I would have given to be able to bask for just a few uninterrupted hours, without a kid whining for breakfast, or sniveling that they can’t find their shoes, or begging in their I’m-soooo-bored-voice if the neighbor kids can come over and play, pleeeeease? What I would have given for a grandparent to knock on my door and ask to kidnap the kids for a few solitary hours.

So, here I am, a decade and a half later, the grandparent. Slipping on the same rose-colored glasses and imagining how I can be a blessing to my grandkids like I tried to be for my kids. It’s easy to be lazy, but how much work is it really to get up, get dressed, pick up kids, take them to VBS’s, drop them off, and in a couple hours, repeat the process in reverse? How much trouble is it really to throw down a slab of clay, a box of crayons, a set of dominoes, a deck of cards, or a good book and spend an afternoon showing little people how to do it? How much trouble is it to drag out the sleeping bags, pop a bag of popcorn, and then camp out together and giggle in the guest bedroom on the king-sized bed watching movies until we can’t keep our eyes open any longer? How many memories can we pack into a day, a summer, a lifetime?

I shared my plan with my daughter one day before school got out. Bless her heart, she was more than happy not only to share her children with me and let me relive some of my best mom-moments with them, but to also go with me to all the churches in town and gather information. We made a notebook of all the information we could from the info stations of each church, and I started writing VBS dates on my calendar.

We found that pretty much every week of the summer some church or another in our town was having VBS, and the weeks that were empty, those weeks could be easily filled with other things that were available in our community, like gymnastics camp, movie matinees, library day, picnics at the park, Frisbee golf, hiking, floating the river, fishing, baseball games, rodeo, etc. Whatever was lacking in our town could be done at home: backyard movies, cookie baking, a lemonade stand, bike riding, learning a new board game, a homeschool science camp – using You Tube, a homeschool art camp – using You Tube, swimming, soaking our feet in tubs of sudsy water, crafts, Nerf gun wars, taking pictures, collecting items for craft projects, etc. There were also going to be birthday parties to host and attend, 4th of July fireworks, and bull riding would be in town the weekend before school started back again.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men. Fast forward to September and can you guess how our summer flew by? It was hands-down one of the best summers EVER!!!!! One for the record books, for sure. We filled it with lots of sleepovers, VBS every week, visiting cousins, tons of crafting, “Hunter-Hunted” Nerf wars in the back yard with grandpa, yard-saling on Fridays, ice-cream, BBQ, hot dogs, watermelon, and everything else on the list. By mid-August we had been-there-done-that, seen it all, done it all, and had to start changing gears for back-to-school with clothes shopping and gathering supplies (and you know the whole love affair that goes with all of that NEW STUFF). By the time things started to slow down, which, honestly, they never did, it was right about perfect timing for the kids to start missing their routines, their desks, their friends, and could hardly wait for school to start again.

I want to encourage all you grandmas out there, that if this page full of rambling words has caught you in your jammies, sipping your morning coffee, and gazing out your window at the tiny hummingbirds scavenging for food, I hope you’ll think about the little people God has gathered to us, who are just as hungry for our time, our love, our attention, and a great big long sip of GRANDMA, as those returning hummers are for that red nectar.

I hope if your mind has sauntered off into a delicious daydream of motherhood-gone-by, that you’ll be spurned on to good works by GRANDMA-not-gone-yet. I hope if you have grandkids, and more time on your hands than good sense, that you’ll get busy and be useful before the little people in your life hyper drive off to another feeder (and be gone forever). I pray you feel equipped by what you’ve read here with an arsenal of great ideas to keep your family busy, Stuff it all into your ditty bag and unpack it with the ones you love while sipping a slushie lemonade in a hammack in the shade, all along the summer trails of life.

Oh that we would consider it all joy, to serve the precious darlings we’ve been so blessed to have in our lives. Oh that we would not waste another moment sitting around in our jammies staring out a window, but jump up and number our days, and sprint into action to redeem the time. May we treasure the memories that will be made, before a single tick-tock of life robs us of them! To the praise and glory of God!

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“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'”

Matthew 19:14

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“Happy Resurrection Day” Treasure Hunt 2021

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“Happy Resurrection Day” Treasure Hunt 2021

He is risen, risen indeed!  And before He departed He raised His hands and blessed His apostles and all those who were with them, and gave them (and us) a GREAT COMMISSION…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.”  Matthew 28:17

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”   Mark 16:15-16

This is the theme I felt compelled to share with my grandchildren this year.

Easter Sunday Morning I made our sort-of traditional dinner (Lamb Chops, Ritz Chicken casserole, Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts in Hollandaise Sauce with bacon and toasted slivered almonds, Sweet Pea salad, Hot Cross Buns, Garlic Butter Smash Potatoes – loaded with onions, cheese, bacon, and sour cream, and for dessert…a Strawberry Cobbler).  I had the hot dishes warming in the oven when family arrived, so that the kids could do the Egg Hunt part of it all right away, because I knew they were really excited about it, and then we sat down to dinner to satisfy our hungry bellies before we continued with the rest of the fun.

Oh my goodness, I could hardly wait for them to arrive that morning. I had spent weeks preparing for this moment.  I was nervous though too, hoping it would all work out as planned. 

When I heard the car doors closing out front,  I ran to greet them at the door, and welcomed all their super-tight, I’ve-missed-you-sooooo-much grandma hugs and kisses.  “Are you ready for some fun?” I asked.  Oh yes, for sure, they seemed just as excited as I was. So, I led them through the house to where I had their plastic buckets waiting for them by the back door.  As we arrived there I pointed to my wall hanging and asked them if they liked my pretty “CHURCH.”  I wanted to make sure they saw it.  I think they liked it, but honestly they were so distracted with hunting for eggs I was slightly worried that they were going to miss an important clue.  Oh well.  I supposed that if I had to help trigger their memory later that would be fine.  We stepped outside the door to gasps and squeals as they caught glimpses of all the colorful eggs strewn to kingdom come all over the lawn.  There in front of them was the lawn sign that said, “You’ve been egged…” 

We read the sign together and then the girls, pausing for permission, got the green flag to GO! Like racecars lined up at the starting line, engines revving, grandma waved them off and there they went as quickly as their little legs would carry them.  One girl ran right, the other ran left, like two little humming birds buzzing around, literally just blurs against the green lawn.  I had to put my camera into “sports” mode so the pictures wouldn’t all be just a blur. I barely got a handful of shots before the eggs were completely gathered.  Lol!  The girls sat down in the lawn and dumped out their buckets wanting to see what was inside all the eggs.

But at this point we pushed the pause button on the hunt so we could partake of our feast.  All our tummies were growling.  The girls left their buckets and eggs lie, and we all washed up.  I swiftly set our hot dishes on the table and asked Jo to set out napkins and silverware for everyone.  We all sat down, bowed our heads, and thanked our precious Jesus for giving His life for us, and for blessing our fellowship this beautiful day.

The next part of the fun was to open all the eggs and see what was inside.  The eggs were filled with candy mints (Testamints), Resurrection buttons, and paper items. 

I instructed the girls to set their candy aside and put all their paper items back in their buckets.  They pinned all their Resurrection buttons onto their shirts.  Jo was the winner of the empty egg.  I asked them if they had found a paper heart with their name on it.  Yes, they both had.  Perfect!  These hearts had scriptures written on the other side – Proverbs 23:26/Matthew 22:37-38 /Romans 10:9.  Their dad pulled the scriptures up on his cell phone Bible app and the girls read them out loud together.

“My [daughter], give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.”  Matthew 22:37, 38

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved.”  Romans 10:9

Will you give your hearts to Jesus, your whole hearts, I asked?  Then I handed them a note.  On the back was a clue where to look for Jesus.

The girls tore off in that direction, with granny hot on their heels.  Lol, no, I was nowhere near their heels.  I was miles behind them panting and yelling for them to wait for me as I hobbled at top granny speed. Ha!  I could hear them screaming in the distance, “We found Him!  We found Him!  We found Jesus!  I got there just in time to snap a photo of them reading the note from Jesus’ right hand.  It said:  Read John 21:12-17/Matthew 25:31-40 …

Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”  John 21:12-17

I asked the girls, “Do you know what Jesus meant by “feed my sheep?”  Who are Jesus’ sheep? And what do we feed them?

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:31-40

… and then the note said to “Go and look for the “least of these,” the lost people, who are everywhere, and bring them to Jesus, and give them what they need.  Then open the note in Jesus’ left hand.

So the girls began looking around for the lost people (the paper people) and finally spotted one pinned to the backside of a tree.  They found them all pinned to the backsides of the trees, lots of trees, hiding basically behind every tree.  Some high, some low.  The girls kept looking and finding…Red people, white people, brown people, black people, yellow people.  And all of the people had needs written on them.  The girls brought them all to the feet of Jesus and laid them out, and then began going through the paper items in their buckets to see if they had the things the paper people needed.  They helped each other meet the needs until all the food and clothes, etc. had been given away. 

Then the girls opened the note in Jesus left hand.  It instructed them to take the people to church.  To my delight the girls remembered exactly where the church was.  They grabbed up all the paper people and took them to church, with all of us (parents and grandparents) gasping for air and trailing along after.  We brought Jesus with us and left him just outside the back door.  When the girls arrived at the church there was a bag of jewels beside it, with a note on it that said to read James 1:12.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

I told the girls that each one could take one jewel (from the bag of jewels) for each person they brought to Jesus, helped, and brought to church.  So they counted out their jewels, and as they did I got out crowns for them and let them pick which color they wanted, and told them to use the jewels to decorate their crowns.  So they sat down at the coffee table and stuck their jewels to their crowns while I read 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  1 Corinthians 3:11-15

We talked about how the only works that will survive the fire are the ones we did out of love (1 Corinthians 12:1-4) and true love comes only from Jesus.  “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life for his friends.”  It is the love of Jesus in us that compels us to do His good works and we should always listen to that still small voice that lays things on our hearts to do.  Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? How the religious people were on their way to do religious things, but passed on by the person in front of them who had a need. Only one person helped that person – the good Samaritan.

When the girls were finished, I took a picture of the two of them wearing their beautiful crowns and then asked them to read the scripture written on the inside of the crowns, and to do what it says. 

“the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”   Revelation 4:10-11

They took their crowns outside and tossed them at the feet of Jesus.  Then I told them about there being one last note on the back of Jesus.  They opened this note.  It said, “I’ve seen your good works.  Behold, your reward is under your bed!” 

Now, if I was a truly Godly old woman it would have ended there, but I’m ornery, and didn’t want the fun to end.  So, when they went to go get their rewards they found only empty boxes with a note taped to each that said, “Oooops, I lied, you might try looking [in another spot] for your reward.”  I heard the littlest one say, “Graaaammmaaaaw!” as they stood to their feet and headed to that other location, and there they both again found another empty box and another note attached to it that said, “Oooops, I lied…”  Those notes mercifully led them to the right spots, and soon they appeared with their Easter Baskets in hand, excited to tear into them and see what they got.

Grandpa had gotten them a huge egg with Easter crafts inside.  I had gotten them each a game – one an Easter finger puppet game and the other an Easter Match-it game.  There were a couple of other goodies too.  Another little note in the bottom of their bags said, “Happy Easter darling! It gave them a list of more things they could do now that their hunt was over:

  • Go “egg” someone’s house
  • Do their Easter crafts
  • Play the Match-it game with sister
  • Put on an Easter Finger-Puppet play for the grown-ups
  • Play the Jesus Ring-toss game outside (it’s what I had used as our JESUS for the hunt)
  • Watch a movie*
  • Eat dessert

*Our choices of movies were:  The Chosen season 1 (DVD), Risen (Pure Flix), Drive Thru History 3-episode Easter Special (TBN/dvr), The History of Easter (TBN/dvr).

The girls did their crafts, put on their finger-puppet play, had several competitions of Jesus ring-toss, and played Match-it while I got dessert together.  We all ate dessert and then watched Risen.  Welllllllllll, the girls actually only watched part of Risen, and then one fell asleep, and the other disappeared to the mancave where the men were watching something else waaaaaaay more entertaining.  Probably Dude Perfect or something.  At one point I do think they meandered to their bedroom to watch the animated movie, Lion of Judah – The Lamb That Saved The World.

I took a dish of our cobbler over to my elderly neighbors, and when I got back my son-in-law was saying his goodbye’s.  He had to get up early for work the next morning so he bid farewell and made his exit .  I drove my daughter and grandchildren home a couple hours later, after we had watched The History of Easter on the TV.  It was the best day!  The girls said it was their favorite Easter ever, buuuuuuttttt they say that every year.  I’m so blessed to have them.  What great, and grateful kids they are.  Easy to love and easy to spoil.

If our Easter celebration sounds like something you’d like to do with your kiddos next year, here are some of my helps:

Preparations

• About 3 weeks before Easter, after I had worked out what I was going to do, I placed an order with Oriental Trading Company.  They ship quickly, but it’s nice to have things well in advance.

• I already had a bunch of plastic Easter eggs that I keep in a plastic tub and use from year to year, but if you don’t have any, you’ll need to purchase those – about 40 per child, various sizes and colors.  And if you want to fill yours with goodies (other than mints and buttons), go grab that stuff as well.

• Make Paper people: Need construction paper, 2 sheets each of red, yellow, black, brown, & white.  I folded my various colored construction papers, accordion style, and then cut paper doll shapes out of them (see diagram below).  On each person I wrote a need (shirt, shoes, pants, dress, Bible, medicine, food, etc.).  Save these “least-of-these people” to hide near the area where you place the Jesus ring-toss figure.

• Make paper items:  Need various colors of construction paper.  Cut out the shapes of one heart for each child, shirts, dresses, pants, medicine, food, etc. and also include the tiny Bibles. You’ll need enough paper items for each paper doll (see diagram above) to have one item.  On each heart write a child’s name so that if one kid finds both hearts they can give it to the one that it belongs to.  Write the scriptures on the back of each heart.

• Put Jesus together.  I used packing tape to hold the footings of the Jesus ring-toss figure in place.  I clipped a clothespin to Him to hold the hearts that the girls gave Him. I taped the notes, in envelopes, to His right and left hand, and His backside.

• I hung my church wall cling near my back door, where our Easter Egg Hunt would begin.  I placed the kids’ Easter buckets in front of the “church” so they would take notice of it. 

• Beside the church I placed a bag of jewels.  On the bag of jewels I put a note that read (take your pick) 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10 & 3:11; James 1:12; and 1 Peter 5:4.     

• Write “Revelation 4:4, 10-11 on the inside of each crown. 

• Put up the “You’ve Been Egged” yard sign just outside the back door (or wherever you plan to hide your eggs).  Remember to leave one egg empty.  You can have a special prize for the kid who gets the empty egg.  And, you can decide later if you want to “Egg” somebody else’s house.  If you decide to, have the kids fill 11 of 12 eggs with little prizes (buttons, mints, or anything you choose – in fact, you could even decide to bless someone (in the spirit of all we’ve learned today) by stuffing the eggs with money and “egging” a house where you know the people and children are very poor, and provide them little trinkets to put in the eggs to keep the game going.

• Fill the eggs.  Fill with all the paper items first, and then with the buttons and the mints, and if you have more eggs, fill them with whatever other items you would like (candy, small toys, coins, etc.).  Remember to leave one egg empty.

• Put together the final prize baskets (my daughter doesn’t like her girls to have too much candy, and since it is for their health I try to behave myself as grandma, which is really really hard, but I understand so I try to honor her wishes.  Grandpa and I fill the prize baskets with toys and minimal sweet things.  A chocolate cross and a package of peeps is about all I am able to get away with.  Grandpa tucks in a few toys and I try to find a small game or two that I think they will enjoy. 

I pray you have a happy Resurrection celebration with your family and are able to make use of my plans.  May we all be watching for the LORD to return and busy about the Lord’s business until that day, especially in these dark LAST DAYS!!!!  God bless you my friends.

Sweet Fig Bread with Rosemary Honey Butter

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Sweet Fig Bread with Rosemary Honey Butter

INGREDIENTS

2 c. all-purpose flour + 2 Tablespoons

¾ cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp Saigon Cinnamon

1 tsp. Arabian 7 Spice (allspice, ground cardamom, ground black pepper, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, gound ginger)

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled

2/3 cup buttermilk

3 eggs

1 tsp Vanilla (pure)

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh figs

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray Bundt pan with baking spray.

Mix dry ingredients together.  Mix wet ingredients together.  Mix the two together until just blended.  Pour into Bundt pan.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes.  Check for doneness – insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean it’s done.  If not, let bake another 5 or so minutes.  Remove from oven, cool slightly, invert bread onto wire cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely.  Slice, and serve with Rosemary honey butter.

Rosemary Honey Butter

Mix ½ cup room temp butter with 2 Tablespoons good quality honey.  Mince about ¼ tsp fresh Rosemary and blend the three ingredients together until well mixed. 

“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13:6-9

Holy Bible, ESV

This is exactly the story with my fig tree. I planted it, watered it. And waited. A year went by. Then two. After the third year I was sure I had gotten a dud. All it would do year after year was produce tiny green figs that would never mature or ripen. They’d just fall off the tree. I wrestled with the idea of chopping it down except it was great for shade and pretty drought tollerant. Then, this year it has decided to give me figs in abundance. The branches are literally loaded! 🙂 I call it my “snack bush” because as I am out mowing my yard, or watering my garden, or doing whatever yard work, it provides a sweet little energy boost every time I walk by and snatch myself a ripe fig to eat.

This recipe for Sweet Fig Bread is one of my favorite ways to use the summer abundance of figs. It is positively delicious all by itself, but the Rosemary Honey Butter kicks it up a notch. Besides bread, I also love fig preserves on a toasted English Muffin, and I also like to dry them and make my own Fig Newtons. If I get a bumper crop in the fall, I also like to add them to my wild rice stuffing at Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you are doing well, happy, and healthy. God bless you friend, and thank you for stopping by. <blowing kisses>

Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

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Mr. Popper's Penguins, Classroom Book Party

I just so happen to know a classroom of 2nd Graders, who are about to finish their book, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and a teacher who is generous to allow an ol’ gray-headed granny to workout her party animal muscle on an excited group of fun-seeking little readers.

Like most classroom book parties, this one features decorations, games, snacks, and a movie. I did some research here in order to gather ideas, since I have not read this book.

I thought the kids might like dressing up like little penguins (large white t-shirts with long black jackets, and puffy yellow penguin-feet slippers) and then putting on some of the same acts from the book, that Captain Cook, Greta, and their adroable waddling mini-mes did, for their teacher and classmates. I’ll divide the classroom into three groups. They won’t know why until I take the first group outside in the hallway where they’ll put on their costumes and then hear my instructions for putting on a silly show. The first group will come out on stage and do some marching – which may involve the passing off of a penguin egg or baby penguin (stuffed animal), and I’m hoping they will really get into character to make the show entertaining for their audience. That group will then exit the stage, take off their costumes, and take their places back at their desks. The next group will enter the hallway, don their penguin apparrel, take their turn on stage, and have a silly boxing match with oversize boxing gloves and some silly fancy footwork. Finally, the last group will take the stage, climb up on bean bags and slide back down, to the whoots and cheers of their adoring classmates.

I’ll put up a map of the United States on one of the classroom walls, and during the movie, pause to let the kids move penguin stickers across all the places where the penguins put on their shows.

The kids will get to watch the movie and at the same time nibble on some fun snacks, which I’ll serve on penguin paper plates, with penguin paper cups and napkins.

SNACKS:

undefined Penguin Rice Crispy Treats

— OR — a more healthy alternative

undefined Penguin Banana Snacks

Goldfish crackers undefined

undefined Snowcones in a cup – our little school happens to have a snowcone machine – hurray!!!!

undefined

Easy Sonic Ocean Water Recipe

5 min·Yield: 3

You have to try this Sonic Ocean Water Recipe. Make your favorite Sonic Ocean water at home.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Water
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Coconut Extract
  • 4 drops Blue Food Coloring
  • 24 oz Sprite ((can be 3 cans or from a 2-liter that you can get for cheap))

Soooooo, now you know my plans. I’ll head back to this post in a few weeks and add pictures, just as soon as my little munchkin-hearts get to have their epic-antarctic party!!!! I’m so looking forward to it. ❤

Fourth Grade King Arthur Medieval Book Party

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Fourth Grade King Arthur Medieval Book Party

DECORATIONS:

Make a trench/moat in front of the classroom door using a blue bedsheet for the water.

Make a drawbridge to lay over the moat, using a long piece of cardboard with wood-board-patterned bulletin board paper glued to it. Attach paper chains, (or, I found plastic chains at Goodwill when they had all their Halloween stuff out) to each side of the drawbridge and string them up to the door frame.

Make a stone frame around the door using gray construction paper, and mount homemade torches on either side (left and right), made out of paper sacks, twisted into a cone shape, with red and orange tissue paper tucked inside to look like flames. (I used Dixie cups, spray painted to look like iron, cut out the bottoms, pinned them with thumb tacks to the door frames, and set my torches inside of them).

Hang an iron-looking portcullis from the top of the doorway, made of strips of cardboard, held together with brass fasteners/brads, and then spray painted to look like rusted iron.

Make a beautiful sign that says, “Camelot ” to hang above the door

Arrange the student’s desks into a big circle – round table, and place a small, homemade sword on the center of each desk. Make the swords out of long, wide popsicle sticks, with hilts made of smaller popsicle sticks, glued together and spray painted, then decorated with old buttons or jewels.

COSTUMES:

Make a king’s crown, queen’s crown, maiden’s head covering, lady-in-waiting head covering, magician hat, friar robe with hood and cross necklace, and some knights helmets (lots of ideas for these on Pinterest).

FOOD:

Set up a buffet table with simple foods:  Bacon/ham/sausage, fruits (grapes, pears, apples, berries), whole raw veggies (carrots, parsnips, cabbage, sugar snap or snow peas) or a veggie pottage – like mushy peas (remember the old song: Peas Porridge hot, Peas Porridge cold, Peas Porridge in the pot nine days old?), hard cooked eggs, cheeses, various small rustic-type breads (wheat, barley, rye, with seads, etc.), homemade butter (see CRAFTS below), oatmeal porridge, and humble pie (which in reality was animal guts pie, but ours will be mincemeat).

Served on pewter plates or large pieces of flat bread (Naan).

Make a table decoration out of a small pig (toy or stuffed animal) with an apple wedged in its mouth, skewered, and roasting over a spit of fake charcoals

(Food photos from UCA Medieval Feast 2021)

BEVERAGES: ginger ale and root beer, served in golden goblets (grails)

OUTDOOR GAMES:

Set up a gauntlet on the playground:  First a Balance Beam, then walking on stilts (bed risers with attached ropes), followed by hurdles over alligators, then walking on a teeder-todder beam end to end, followed by having to jump high up to grab a flag, then shooting an arrow (or tossing bean bags) at targets, after that crawling through a large box with crape paper taped all over inside of it like a spider web, then walk on a balance beam again while avoiding swinging balls of various sizes, after that a leap over dragon stuffed animal, and finally pulling Excaliber from a stone

INDOOR GAMES:

Divide the kids into small groups of 5 or 6 and give each group a different game to play. After 20 to 30 minutes switch the games to another group.

KINGS in the CORNER  (2-6 players, ages 7 and up)

FIVE CROWNS   (2-7 players, ages 8 and up)

Castle Panic by Fireside Games (1-6 players, kids 7 & Up)

Kingdomino Award Winning Family Strategy Board Game by Blue Orange Games (2-4 players, ages 8 and up)

Queendomino Strategy Board Game (2 to 4 players, orup to 8 players when the game is combined with Kingdomino)

Era Medieval Age (1-4 players, ages 14 and up)

Wiz Kids TOURNAMENT AT CAMELOT (2-6 players, ages 14 & up)

PASSE-DIX  (unlimited players) How to play:

3 six-sided dice are rolled: 10 and above wins double the stake, below loses the stake; after each roll the bank passes to the next player.

Probably one of the most, if not the most, ancient dice game in history. Passe-dix was allegedly specified by Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 27:35) as the game the Roman guards played under the site of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Passe-dix is played with three dice. There’s always a banker, and the number of players is unlimited. The first gamer rolls: every time he throws UNDER ten he (and all the other players in the game) lose the specified stake, which goes to the banker. Every time he rolls ABOVE ten (or PASSES TEN–whence the name of the game), the banker must return double the stake to all the players in the game. After three losses of the roller (no matter how many wins), the roller position is passed to another gamer in the circle. The banker changes after each roll.

E.g. if there are four people in the game (remember one is the Banker, and one is rolling for everyone else) and the stake is 1 penny, then a loss will result in the banker taking 1 penny from each other player, but a win will involve the banker giving 2 pennies to each player.

MOVIES:

Pendragon, Sword of His Father | Burns Family Studios (2008) Rated G. This is a Christian, Dove Award movie set in Brittain’s dark ages with a wonderful message of faith, courage, and vision. This was my first pick for our classroom party!

The Kid Who Would Be King | PG (2019) ‧ Fantasy/Action ‧ 2 hours. I liked this movie. I thought it had a thoughtful plot, great acting, and wonderful cinematography, that took from the story of King Arthur/Merlin and made it a modern message that I think kids today could really relate to. This was my second pick for the classroom party.

Walt Disney’s The Sword and the Stone (animated). This movie is a little too childish for upper elementary, in my opinion.

Merlin (1998)   PG-13 | 182 min | Action, Adventure, Drama. This would be a fantastic film for upper elementary aged kids, except for a couple unfortuate scenes, which make it unrecommendable. It is a 2-disc movie that first tells the story of Merlin (disc one), and then the story of Arthur and Merlin (disc two). Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies, sort of, in the type of movie that it is. This is the parent’s guide

First Knight (1998)   PG-13 (for some brutal medieval battles). This again would be a wonderful film for upper elementary, if not for a few unfortunate scenes. Parent’s Guide

King Arthur (2004)   the PG-13 version – NOT the Director’s Cut! Rated for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language. This movie was alright, I guess, but I personally wasn’t a fan of the sort of manly, feminist portrayal of lady Guinevere. All the Merlin magic was absent. Reminiscent of the movie Troy in the type of movie that it is. This is the parent’s guide

Free MUSIC: (to be played while the kids eat or do crafts, if desired, reminiscent of a Renaissance Fair)

CRAFTS:

  undefined Make Butter from Heavy Whipping Cream: Fill 2 or 3 pint-sized glass jars about half way with the heavy cream. Screw the lids on tight. Have the kids take turns shaking the jars vigorously, and passing to another kid when their arms get tired, until the heavy cream separates into butter and buttermilk. Use the butter to spread on their bread. The kids can drink the buttermilk if they want, or it can be saved to make cornbread or pancakes.

Make Catapults (either using the Boy Craft Catapult Wars boxed game, or let the kids make catapults using popsicle sticks and rubber bands, erasers as ammunition, and disposable cups as targets) and have shooting duels

Create individual Coat-of-Arms using cardstock, crayons, markers, stickers, stamps, stencils, etc. These can then be transferred to clothing or made into flags using iron-on transfer kits and an iron.

Party Planner’s notes: I always tell myself, “This time I’m going to keep it simple,” but am rarely successful in accomplishing that. My imagination swirls and swoons with so many dozens of ideas and I don’t want to give anything up. I want to do it all, and cram as much as possible into a small block of time. It’s not until I’m in the middle of my ambitious plans that I realize IT’S TOO MUCH!!!! Hopefully you’re looking for ideas for a child’s birthday party, or a homeschool unit study activity, or family reunion, or something else where you can make good use of all of this stuff. Our party however will probably consist of making butter, filling plates with snacks, grabbing a beverage, watching a movie, and if we’re extra fortuitous, perhaps a game of Passe Dix or catapult wars, before the teacher wants her classroom back for educational discussion.

It’s with a heavy heart that I confess I was unable to throw this party, what with our world being in the early throes of the #CoronaVirus pandemic, which turned everything upside down, forced the shut down of schools, caused the grocery store shelves to be barren, and took a terrible toll on the health and well being of our economy and our most vulnerable citizens as well. So much uncertainty, which was not unlike the medieval dark ages themselves, where raiding Saxons and Anglos robbed the Brittons of their gardens, farm animals, livelihoods, safe homes, and personal freedoms. Terrible plagues and famine ravaged towns and villages. It almost seems apropos to be studying the middle ages in such times as this. Perhaps remembering this part of history will help us not to have to repeat it? I pray that evil will not prosper, that we will take cleanliness much more seriously, that we will be brave to stand up to antiheroes and bullying, controling governments, and be kind and generous with our family, friends, and neighbors when it is within our power to do so. It seems good to remember the value of a brave and virtuous leader, like King Arthur, the honor, chivalry, and loyalty of his knights, their courtesy, justice, and readiness to help the weak. I pray for my countrymen and this beautiful planet, that our stressful time passes quickly, without causing too much distruction to our economy and our lives, and though our weeping might last for a night, that there would be joy in the morning as we see the mighty hand of God who got us through it.

2020 UPDATE: So, the kids did not come back to school after spring break, March 2020, but unlike many schools they did resume in the fall of 2020. My grand daughter had moved on to the next grade by then and I was diagnosed with cancer, so I call it my “lost” year. BUT, in the fall of September, 2021 I got to use my decorations, which I had feared would go to total waste, for a Medieval Feast for the high school kids. The teachers decorated a room and set it up with a feast, and all the students dressed the part, ate and drank, and played all the games that were set up for them. And the 4th grade teacher asked if I would do a Medieval party for her class for the last day of school. So, yay. The decorations won’t go to waste.

The 4th graders read Robin Hood instead of King Arthur, so after Spring Break I got to throw a Robin Hood party for them. I didn’t get to use my Camelot decorations. Instead, I used scene-setters (large canvas backdrops of forest scenes) to and make a maze at the entrance of the classroom – a secret passageway into Sherwood Forest. I thought it would be fun to blindfold the kids and lead them into the classroom for the first time, to make sure they could be trusted. We had deer jerky and garden items to snack on (veggies and berries), (root)BEER and (ginger)ALE to drink, and then I made them each pay a fee for their meal, which they paid me in pencils! Lol. And then the kids played Kingdomino in two groups for the next hour or so. No movie. No robbing passing students in the hall, or getting into sword fights with the sheriff’s men, who might have come sniffing around, although that would have been fun to arrange had I thought of it ahead of time. The dollar store had nerf-type swords which would have been perfect. I could have placed them in a bucket for the kids to grab if such an occasion arose. At any rate, we had fun.

2022 UPDATE: The school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX ended the school year 2 days early for the whole district – which was definitely appropriate! I am so thankful my children weren’t in harms way, and my heart is broken and grieving for the parents and families that suffered loss. So the last day party was canceled and the decorations will just have to keep

2022 fall update… my granddaughter’s world studies class is studying the Renaissance! I get to use the decorations for her class party. Woo-hoo! And in a couple years they will hopefully get used for the other grandchild. Perhaps in the meantime I will donate them to 4th grade. BTW. I’m creating an Escape Room for our Renaissance party. If it turns out I’ll certainly blog about it!

May our LORD hedge us in with His protection, cover us with His glory cloud, and lead us through these chaotic times with His pillar of fire. May He help us not to be afraid, and comfort us in our sadness. May He suit us up with His Spiritual Armor and give us courage and faith. May He forgive our trespasses and clothe us in His white robes of righteousness. May God pour out His Spirit into our hearts until our cups and lanterns are overflowing, and May He cast out fear as we walk with Him through every storm. May we have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear, for our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. May we find safety and shelter in the wings of our God. And may we be ready and watching for Him when He comes to snatch us away. May He bless us and keep us forever. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray. Praise be to God! Amen.

The Lamb of God

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The Lamb of God

About this time last year the Holy Spirit put it in my heart to study the altars in the Old Testament — you know — the large stone (or pillar) or rock-pile altars that the patriarchs erected and dedicated as a testimony to God and of God’s magnificent working in their lives. I honestly didn’t realize how many of them there were until I began studying them. I studied them in great depth, line-upon-line and precept-upon-precept, and to my utter amazement the Lord began showing me wonderful and awesome things, mysteries, hidden away in each of them. Things that one only finds when they slow down enough to spend the time looking, digging, hunting, searching, praying, asking. I have been blessed to have had the time this year to do just that. It has been a magnificent journey and I want to share everything I’ve found with you, but it won’t all fit in this post. So I will share just one of these very special things, one that relates to this holiday we are celebrating.

I was reading about Jacob in Genesis, and his return to the Promised Land from his uncle Laban’s house. Jacob purchased land from Hamor, the father of Shechem, and set up an altar in probably the same vicinity as his grandfather Abraham’s first altar. Unfortunately circumstances kept him from settling down there, and he continued journeying southward with his wives (Rachel, who was pregnant), all of his children, and his plenteous flocks of sheep, towards the part of Israel where his father Isaac had lived out his last days. On the way, Rachel went into labor, near a place called Ephrathah, also known as Bethlehem. Her labor was very hard. Her baby survived, but Rachel herself died. In childbirth Rachel named the boy baby Ben-Oni, which meant son of my sorrow, but Jacob named him Benjamin, which meant son of the right hand.

Now Jacob buried his beloved wife where she died and set up a headstone for her grave, a grave that is there to this day. Jacob then traveled a little further and pitched his tent “beyond the tower of Eder.” Now, I made that bold for you because it’s the thing the Holy Spirit stopped me at, and the thing I want to talk about. I’ll bet if you were reading the scriptures (Gen. 35:21) you might have glossed right over that detail and not thought a thing about it – as I also have a hundred times. But this time the Holy Spirit made it bold for me and spoke to my heart that there was a mystery there, a prophecy right there in that tower, and in this story, that He wanted me to find.

watchtower-shepherds-fields-bethlehem-circa-1934

So I looked up “tower of Eder” in my Bible dictionary and found that in Hebrew it was called Migdal Eder, which means Tower of the Flock, and it is indeed famous. Oh precious Jesus, my heart is beating so fast. Please help me to write this so that You might be glorified in spite of my fumbling words.

Migdal Eder would one day be the special place where the most special lambs would be born, the ones without spot or blemish that would be used as the sacrifices for Passover, later, when the temple was built in Jerusalem (according to the Mishnah). According to my research of various Jewish websites, these special lambs were watched over by Levitical shepherds. When the ewes of the flocks started into labor they were taken inside the ceremonially clean ground level part of the tower to birth their baby lambs. It was kinda like a cave in there. The lambs were then wrapped tightly in strips of cloth and laid in a manger to keep them safe until they could be carefully inspected by the priestly shepherds whose lot had fallen to do that. Are you starting to feel something stir in your spirit?

Here is a prophecy of the birth of Messiah in Micah 5:2

“But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” And the prophecy is remembered at the birth of Jesus in Matthew 2:6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Luke 2:4-7 then also tells us: “Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no other lodging place for them in Bethlehem”

Many Messianic websites suggest that Jesus was born in the watchtower of Eder, not a lowly and dirty stable, as has been portrayed for years, but the very clean, bug free, and very special place where ALL the lambs were born who would become a PASSOVER SACRIFICE in Jerusalem.

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“And there were shepherds abiding in the fields…” These descendants of Jacob were keeping watch in the fields by night for wolves or other predators that might try to harm their sheep when the angels of God burst on the scene. According to my research the sheep were only in the Bethlehem hills during the green springtime of the year, during lambing season. Later in the summer they would be moved to the harvested fields where they would eat the stubble and deposit fertilizer for the next crops. And then they would winter in the wilderness, as the law required. These particular shepherds were no doublt familiar with the scriptures of Genesis, Micah, and Isaiah, which said:

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people… (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you” Genesis 49:10, 24-25.

And they knew just where to go look because of the other prophecy in Micah…

“And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come. The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” Micah 4:8

Jesus was born in the land of Judah, the land of King David, the land of Boaz – the kinsman redeemer, and was The Lamb of God without spot or blemish. He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:14; Ezekiel 34:11-31; Psalm 23;) Ezekiel prophecied of whose ministry was to the lost (Matthew 18:10-14; Luke 15:1-7; Luke 19:10) and scattered sheep of Israel, and He died as the Passover Lamb (Mark 14:12; John 1:29; John 10:14-16; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 5:6) who takes away the sin of the world.

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground… Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows ; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, but He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted…He was led as a lamb to the slaughter…For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin…by His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities…Because He poured out His soul unto death…And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53

Do you remember what Rachel named her son? And what Jacob renamed him? They perhaps didn’t even know it, but it was a prophecy of the baby boy who would one day be born there, right there, who would be the Son of His Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19), but the sorrow of His mother (Matthew 2:18 & Jeremiah 31:15; Luke 2:33-35 & John 19:25).

And if that isn’t incredible enough, Rachel’s name even means “Ewe.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” … Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!!! Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer (our Boaz from Bethlehem)! “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ Messiah comes from the seed of David (the king) and from the town of Bethlehem, where David (the shepherd boy) was from?” John 7:42. (John 10; Psalm 23).

The SHEEP GATE

Sha’ar – “gate” hasso’n – “flock” One of the gates of Jerusalem rebuilt by Nehemiah (Neh 3:1,32; 12:39). It was located between the Tower of the hundred (Migdal Meah) and the upper room of the corner (3:1,32) or gate of the guard (12:39). It is most likely the sheep gate mentioned in John 5:2; 10:1-10.

In a book, written by A. W. Pink, a minister of the gospel, p28 of Studies in the Scriptures, published 1926 – 1927, Rev. Pink writes:

“And led Him away to Annas first. The Saviour was neither ‘driven’ nor ‘dragged,’ but led: thereby the Holy Spirit informs us, once more, of His willing submission. He offered no resistance. With infinitely greater ease than Samson of old, could He have burst His bonds ‘as a thread when it toucheth the fire; but as prophecy had announced, ‘He was led as a lamb to the slaughter’ –gentle and tractable. Here also He fulfilled not only prophecy but type: each animal that was to be offered in sacrifice was first led to the priest (Lev. 17:5), so Christ was first brought to Annas. The road followed from the Garden to the house of the high priest was also significant. Gethsemane was at the foot of Olivet, on the east side of Jerusalem, beyond the brook Cedron. In journeying from there to the City, the gate through which they would pass was “the sheep gate:” (Neh. 3:1, 32; 12:39; John 5:2 and see our notes on the last). The “sheep gate” was nigh unto the Temple, and through it the sacrificial animals passed (first having been fed in the meadows adjoining the Cedron [today called the Kidron – the Kidron Valley]; so also went the true Lamb on this occasion! Note a striking contrast here: Adam was driven out of the Garden (Gen. 3:24), Christ was led!”

Isaiah the prophet wrote the words, “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7,8), and in the New Testament it was the apostle Philip who explained the passage to an Ethiopian eunuch, whom he met on the road to Gaza, who was reading it, apparently out loud. Philip asked if the man understood what he was reading, and beginning with that scripture, he preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:26-39).

This was Jesus’s own testimony about himself:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice … I am the door of the sheep…I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly! “ John 10:1-10 NKJV

Jesus entered the sheepfold by the same door that all of humanity entered – the womb of a woman. He entered His ministry after being baptised and confirmed by the Holy Spirit (as a pattern for us to follow) as a symbol of rebirth (John 3:1-17; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:24; Romans 6:4-14; Colossians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 3:21). And He became the perfect Passover Lamb in the same way as all the other Passover lambs that ever were since the institution of the Passover observance. He is the door. He is the Way. The scriptures told us ahead of time, so that when such things began to pass we would know it was of God.

If I may be so bold as to ask, have you made Jesus your Ebeneezer – your Stone of help (1 Sam.7:12)? If you have please write down and share your testimony with others. I would LOVE to hear how you came to know Jesus also. You are welcome to leave your testimony in the comments section below. The Lord only knows how many hearts will be touched by our experiences with Jesus. We shall also overcome our enemy by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimonies (Revelation 12:11)!

So, as the patriarchs did with stones, let us also memorialize Yeshua Jesus in our lives (Dt.6:6-9) as living stones being built up a spiritual house. Let us be for Him altars of testimony so that when our kids, or our friends, or our neighbors ask, “What is this faith that you have; what is this pile of rocks all about?” we can tell them of all the mighty things the LORD has done for us, knowing that if we should be made silent, even the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:40)!!!!! Just as the stones of Rachel’s grave and those of the Migdal Eder are surely crying out to us now in Doxology to God! Amen! Bless you so much!

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

1 Peter 1:19

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, but narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

I have updated my post in December 2022 to share with you several others with credentials who have found this passage of scripture and researched it and taught on it, so that you may know by the witness of two or three others that this trustworthy.

Continue your research here

Continue your research here
Continue your research here
Continue your research here

A Lamb’s Tale and a Mysterious Tower, by Mini Manna Moments

The Christmas Prophecy of Bethlehem, by Gary Stearman (Prophecy Watchers)

The Secret of the Shepherds, by Christine Darg

Continue your research here

The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

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The Sign of the Beaver, Book Party

I was recently blessed with the task of throwing a book party for my granddaughter’s classroom, to celebrate their finishing reading the book, The Sign of the Beaver. It was a “Dinner and a Movie” party, in which I was asked to provide the food and decorations. The party took place over their lunch hour. I set the food up as a buffet, and arranged a few minimal decorations while the kids were in PE, which mostly consisted of stuffed animals and a river. After a brief explanation of all the foods, the kids were allowed to help themselves and eat while they watched the movie. And when the movie was over the teacher did a little activity with them to compare the movie to the book. The kids were so excited, and not only did they eat everything, they asked to take all the leftovers home with them. All that was left was a little bit of stew in the bottom of the crock pot, so I would say it was a success! What a great group of kids, always so grateful and always a ton of fun to spoil.

This has become, honestly, one of my very favorite volunteer activities in the whole wide world to do, even though it is a ton of work. It is a labor of love! In order to prepare, I read the book and made a list of all the foods mentioned, as well as took notes of some decorating ideas that I hoped would kind of bring the book to life for the kids. I had never read this book before, and shame on me, because it is a terrific little book. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and children’s novels are just my speed. I’m not much of a reader, for a plethora of reasons, but when it only takes about three hours to knock a book out, that’s in my wheelhouse. So, after reading it I set out doing some research to find authentic northeastern tribal recipes for the foods mentioned in the book. It couldn’t have been more perfect for this party to come during Thanksgiving/hunting season, and during the last harvests of our gardens. And for a beverage I brought two jugs of “Penobscot River water” and let the kids sweeten it with a bit of maple sugar.

I decided to center the party around the idea of the Bear Feast that was celebrated in Attean’s village after Attean and Matt encountered and killed a bear in self-defense while they were out retrieving a rabbit from one of the snares they’d set up. I also wanted to incorporate some of the wild game, the maple sugar Attean gave to Matt, and some of the fruits and berries and native foods that would have been eaten back then.

DECORATIONS: The book’s setting is in the late summer into early wintertime of the year, early/mid 1700’s Maine, and in the vicinity of the Penobscot River, where Matt and his dad cleared a tract of land, built a cabin, and planted a garden. Attean and his Indian tribe lived nearby. It was a wooded area teaming with wildlife, maple trees, and wild berry bushes. So for decorations I decided to gather up all the stuffed animals we had that would represent the animals in the forest: a bear rug/blanket, bunny rabbit, fox, deer, squirrel, fish, turtle, beaver, and Attean’s useless dog. I also gathered up a blue bedsheet that I used to make a river with the first time I threw this party (I used bulletin board paper the second time), a pile of sticks on one end to make a beaver dam, some rocks to line the river (and the second party I used the rocks to hold the tree upright), and because we’re in Texas, I used a Buc-ees Beaver the first time I threw this party to sit on top of the beaver’s sticks. I used some gorgeous, colorful, fall paper maple leaves to scatter around beside the river. I drug my little tree to the school to set beside the river and I used a Drimmel Tool to carve a beaver design into a tree stump, which I used as a decoration. The Teepee shown in the photo below was an afterthought, I wish I would have remembered to bring it to the party, but considering the northeastern Indians actually lived in wigwams, rather than teepees, t’was no biggy I guess.

In case you’re thinking of throwing this party and would like a great big bear rug to spread on the floor for your party, don’t go spend a fortune at an Outdoor store before you check your local thrift stores. I frequently find a giant teddy bear at Goodwill for $6, which would work marvelously as a rug with all the stuffin’s pulled out. I already had a bear blanket at home that I thought would work just dandy. BTW: Goodwill is a great budget friendly place to bargain shop for theme parties!

FOOD: Some of the foods mentioned in the book consisted of Johnny Cakes, which Matt’s dad made the last morning for breakfast, before he left his 12/13 year old son in Maine to care for the cabin and garden alone, while he went back to Massachusetts to retrieve Matt’s pregnant mother and sister. He left Matt with his good rifle to hunt with, and for self defense. Some of the animals they hunted were deer, rabbits, and fish with one precious fish hook.

I made deer jerky out of a couple packages of deer cutlets gifted to me by one of the parents. My sister has the absolute best jerky recipe on the planet and so I used it, and only modified it slightly, so it wouldn’t be too spicy for the kids. This is my adaptation:

Sister Geraldeen’s Beef (or venison) Jerky

1  3-lb roast, fresh, raw (it is easiest to slice if placed in the freezer for about an hour)

16 oz. Soy Sauce

2.5 oz. liquid smoke

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp Salt Lick dry rub, with garlic (equal parts cayenne powder, black pepper, and garlic powder)

Stir together in a large oblong glass baking dish until sugar is dissolved.

Using a sharp knife, slice lean meat into thin strips (1/4 to 1/8” thick and 1/2  to 1” wide).  Slice across the grain for a tenderer product.  Lay the slices down into the marinade until the meat takes up most of it.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down on top of the meat so the marinade covers the meat completely.  Place in refrigerator overnight. 

In the morning, drain off and discard all of the marinade.  Then mix together these dry ingredients in a separate small bowl:

1 Tablespoon cracked Pepper

1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper flakes

1 teaspoons of Chili powder

Sprinkle over drained meat strips and toss with hands to coat evenly (I use latex gloves).  Preheat food dehydrator.  Lay strips of meat on each rack leaving small spaces in between the pieces for good air circulation.  Stack the racks in the dehydrator, cover, and allow to dehydrate undisturbed for about 8 hours.  Check the meat for doneness, and let it dehydrate more if still wet or bendy when cooled.  Depending upon your dehydrator, it could take up to 24 hours or more for the meat to fully dry.  Meat is done when a piece removed and cooled will break in half easily and not bend or fold at all without breaking.

If you don’t have a dehydrator you can buy a package of disposable Aluminum Grill Liners (I use KT’s Clean BBQ brand available from Home Depot) or online, and completely cover the racks in your oven with them, then lay the strips of meat on those. Also lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your oven to catch the drips. Adjust the racks to that they are placed in the center of your oven, and then set the oven temp to its lowest setting. Mine will only go as low as 170 degrees F. Prop the oven door open a little bit with a wooden spoon so the moisture can vent out as the meat dries. It won’t take as long to jerk your meat in the oven at that temp as it will in the dehydrator, so check it after about 4 hours, and then every half hour or so after that until the meat is dried as described above.

Place finished jerky in clean, sterilized mason jars, and use a Food Saver to remove all the air from the jars.  Place jars in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks.  For longer storage, place in refrigerator and eat within a month.

Johnny Cakes

I ran out of time to make these for the the first party (poor time management the morning of the party), but I did make them for the second party, and the kids loved them, especially with real butter and pure maple syrup on top. YUM!

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Butter or oil for frying

Instructions

1. In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, water, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Thoroughly mix until pancake mixture is smooth.

2. Heat a lightly oiled cast iron or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the pan.

3. Fry each Johnny cake until brown and crisp; turn with a spatula, and then brown the other side.

4. Remove and serve immediately with syrup and/or butter. These can be eaten hot for breakfast, or cold as a snack later in the day.

Three Sisters Harvest Stew  (a.k.a. Bear Stew)

INGREDIENTS

1 pound beef stew meat

1 teaspoon ground cumin

 Kosher salt, as needed

 Black pepper, as needed

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups turkey, chicken, or beef stock, or combo (low sodium bone broth),

1 rib of celery

1 large carrot

8 small red or yellow potatoes, cut in half

1 medium yellow squash, diced

1/4 cabbage, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

2 cups fresh or frozen cut green beans

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 (4-ounce) can roasted green chilies (1/2 cup)

Add 1 jalapeno, unless using spicy green chilies

½ bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

PREPARATION  (YIELD: 8 servings – TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes)

Season beef with cumin, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add beef, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl and set aside.

Add onion to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Return beef to pan, along with stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium simmer and cook meat until almost tender.  Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and bring to a boil.  Cook 20 minutes, then lower heat to medium.

Add beans, tomatoes, corn, chilies and squash, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until stew has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

COOKING NOTES

Three sisters is so-called because Native Americans inter-planted corn, beans and squash in the same mound. The 3 thrive together because corn provides a natural pole for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and the squash leaves shade the ground to prevent the growth of weeds, and also helps to hold soil moisture.

Recipe adapted from: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016956-three-sisters-stew

Grandmother’s Indian Cornbread (Broadswords)

The Iroquois Indians made a wonderful boiled corn bread. They made flour by pounding corn into corn flour. To make bread, they mixed water with the corn flour. Sometimes cooked beans were added, or berries or nuts. The bread was kneaded and formed into small loaves. The loaves were dropped into boiling water and cooked until the bread floated. Boiled corn bread was served both hot and cold. They also used the same bread mix to bake bread by putting it on clay tablets in the fire. They used sunflower oil to fry bread. Below is a recipe for steamed corn bread with beans, wrapped in corn husks. It is remarkably similar to tamales. This was the kids’ FAVORITE food of the party. I would have bet against that. Good thing I made a big batch!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour used for tamales)
  • ½ cup rendered bacon fat (many traditional Native American recipes use fat as a flavor element and source of vital nutrients)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup cooked beans (really any type of bean will work but small brown beans are traditional. I used great northern beans)
  • 2 cups hot cooking liquid from beans
  • Dried corn husks

Directions

  1. Set up a steamer on your stove top using a steamer basket fitted over a pot with plenty of gently simmering water.
  2. Thoroughly rinse about 25 corn husks. Place corn husks in a large pan of boiling water. Place another smaller plate or bowl on top of the corn husks to keep them submerged. Set husks on low heat to soften while you prepare the dough.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina and bacon fat. Using your fingertips (I used latex gloves), work the lard into the flour until it is evenly distributed. Add salt, baking powder, beans, and the hot cooking liquid from the beans. Use a spoon to stir mixture until a thick, sticky dough comes together, it will be about the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough.
  4. Use your hands to scoop ¼ cup-sized portions of dough, working quickly as dough will still be hot from the bean cooking liquid. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten slightly into a 1-inch thick oval, which is your “broadsword.” Wrap the broadsword in a corn husk, folding the husk around the dough on all sides to completely enclose it. Tear off small strips of corn husks to use as ties around the broadswords to hold them closed. Place the wrapped broadswords vertically in the steamer basket as you go. When all broadswords have been added to basket, lower it over boiling water, cover the steamer basket with a tight fitting lid, and allow broadswords to steam covered for 1 hour or more.
  5. After 1 hour, check the bean bread- if the corn husk pulls away easily, the broadswords are done cooking.
  6. Broadswords may be eaten hot, or stored in refrigerator to be eaten cold or rewarmed in oven or microwave.

Roasted Pumpkin

Members of the Chippewa tribe near Lake Superior have been enjoying this sweet and savory side dish for generations.

Ingredients:

1 small sugar pumpkin

1/4 cup maple syrup or maple sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Instructions:

Cut the cap off of pumpkin and stab it about 4 times with a sharp knife.  Scoop out membranes and seeds.  (Wash seeds in a colander and discard all membranes. Place seeds in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon sea salt, toss and allow them to soak a bit while you prepare the pumpkin, then spread seeds on a very lightly oiled, or parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with some extra salt. Place seeds in oven with pumpkin, but check and remove seeds once they have roasted – about 15 minutes or until you hear one or two pop. Check by removing a seed, let it cool, and then eat it. If it is crispy it is done). Add butter and syrup/sugar to the pumpkin.  Replace cap on pumpkin and place whole in a large ovenproof bowl .  Place pumpkin in a 350 °F oven for about 1 hr. and check for tenderness. Depending upon size, and variances with ovens, it may take up to 90 minutes for pumpkin to cook fully. You know it is getting close when the pumpkin looks like it has a tan and the sides are soft to the touch. Check tenderness by piercing side of pumpkin with a fork.  If the fork punctures through the skin and into the flesh easily, it is done.

Dried Fruit & Nut Cake

I’m not much of a fruitcake person, but I think it is because I don’t care for the usual candied fruits that come in fruitcake, such as pineapple and green cherries, etc. Using dried fruits is so much better.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup Molasses

1 ½ sticks of Butter (3/4 cup), softened

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup each rough chopped dried: apricots, plums, figs, pears, dates, golden raisins, blueberries

1 cup each: walnut halves, pecans, almonds, pistachios

Instructions

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 320°F (150°C). Spray the loaf pans (either two 9-by-5-inch 8-cup loaf pans or 8 mini loaf pans) with vegetable oil spray and then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the first eight ingredients together using a mixer on low speed.  Increase speed to medium and beat until batter is smooth, scraping the bowl often with a rubber spatula.  Stir in the dried fruit and the nuts and mix thoroughly, with your fingers if necessary. Set aside.

3. Use an ice cream scoop or scrape batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake until the top is deep golden brown and the batter clinging to the fruit seems set, about 30 minutes for smaller loaves, 10 to 15 minutes longer for a large loaf. Insert toothpick to check for doneness. Toothpick should come out clean. Don’t let cake overbake or it will be dry. Tent loosely with foil if the cake appears to be browning too much. Cool completely in the pans on a rack.

5. When completely cool, remove the cake from the pans. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight in foil or plastic wrap, for several weeks at room temperature or at least 3 months in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for at least 6 months.

6. To serve, cut into thin slices with a sharp heavy knife.

Dried Fruit and Nut Cake Recipe adapted from © 2007 Alice Medrich. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission. Alice used dates, dried Angelino plums, and dried pears.

Fire Roasted Fish

I didn’t make the fish for the first party, although I was given some trout for the party and had a wild daydream about having the kids following me outside to the park just a block from the school, where my husband could be tending a fire next the creek that runs through it, and on the way having them mark their trail just like Attean showed Matt to do in the book, so they could find their way back to class, but reality check – there really wasn’t enough time for that kind of shenanigans, and besides that, the only way to eat trout is freshly caught and properly cleaned, otherwise I think it would have been a waste of time to try and fix it for the kids. I’m sure they would all have turned up their noses and shied away from having even one tiny bite of the stinky fish, plus the teacher was surely not going to appreciate her room smelling of stinky fish for days either. For the second party I cracked open a can of Herring fillets, and to my surprise the kids ate the whole can.

This however, is an outstanding recipe for any fish. Give it a try with walleye, snapper, perch, bass, cod, redfish, tilapia, etc. If using fillets, lay all the ingredients on the fish and wrap with bacon rather than placing the bacon inside.

Ingredients

Salt and Pepper

1 Big Fish (Salmon, Trout, Perch)

Butter

Lemon Slices

Onion slices

Green Bell Pepper slices (or Jalapeno strips)

Several strips of thin sliced precooked (but not crispy) bacon

Directions

  1. Set up an outdoor kitchen: a hot fire with glowing coals surrounded by large flat rocks; a big jug of fresh clean water for rinsing the fish, plus the knife, and your hands.
  2. Carefully kill, gut and scale each fish immediately upon catching it, and rinse well in clean water.
  3. Sprinkle inside of fish with salt and pepper.  Place pats of butter, lemon, onion, and bell pepper slices inside the fish and lay a strip of precooked bacon down on top of them in the cavity of the fish. Tie wet string around the fish to hold the stuffings in and to hold it together while it grills.
  4. Or, rub fish with butter on both sides and wrap tightly in a big piece of tinfoil and crimp the edges closed.  Wrap again in a second piece of tinfoil.
  5. Bake on a smooth flat rock really close to the fire (but not in it!), or if you have a grate, lay the fish on the grate above the fire. Or, fry in butter in a heavy cast iron pan over the fire.
  6. Use a long handled spatula to carefully turn the fish about half way through cooking and also to remove it from the fire.
  7. Note: The amount of time it takes to cook varies depending on the size of fish and how close it is to the fire. Just keep checking it, it will be done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork.  May take from 15 to 20 minutes if on a grate over the fire, or to up to an hour if laying on a hot rock next to the fire.

Recipe adapted from one found by Lauren McArdle …who learned this from her Mohawk Grandmother in Saskatchewan.

“Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, the tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed…” Psalm 74:2

Mrs H’s Fried Ice Cream

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Mrs H’s Fried Ice Cream

This is an easy version of your favorite Mexican Restaurant dessert! Hooray, right? We all love EASY! This can also be made up ahead of time for an easy dessert for company, or to carry in for a pot luck supper at church. You can serve them all fancied up, or let your guests decorate their own.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Half-gallon Vanilla Ice Cream (I like the less sweeter varieties; read the label; my favorite has 11 g sugars under Carbohydrates.  Some have 20 g and that is just too sweet for my taste)

6 cups Corn Flakes cereal, crushed

½ cup (1 stick) butter

3 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ cup honey

Chocolate Ice Cream sauce

Whipped Cream (in aerosol can)

Maraschino cherries (with stems)

Large size muffin wrappers (paper)

Latex gloves

5-Step procedure

First, place a muffin tin in your freezer and allow it to get ice cold (about an hour).  Use an ice cream scoop to dip ice cream from its container.  I use my other hand (with glove on) to heap ice cream up over the ice cream in the scoop and then press it into a ball shape, before ejecting the ball into a well of the muffin tin.  Continue until all 12 wells are full, or ice cream is used up.  Place muffin tin back in the freezer and allow ice cream balls to set and freeze hard (about an hour or two).

Meanwhile, make the crust: Crush the corn flakes cereal in a gallon size zip lock bag, using a rolling pin. Add the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven size pot, toss in the crumbs and cinnamon and stir fry about 2 or 3 minutes until it begins to smell wonderful.  Be careful not to let it burn.  Drizzle with honey and toss to coat.  Remove from heat and let it cool.  NOTE: I have substituted other cereals, namely Cinnamon Toast crunch and it worked great, as long as the cereal was ground into fine crumbs in a food processor.

Remove Ice cream balls from freezer.  Use a large spoon to remove a ball from its well in the muffin tin. Drop ball into crumb mixture and roll with gloved hands around in the crumbs, pressing crumbs into ice cream with hands until all sides are coated.  If you are having trouble getting the crumbs to stick to the ice cream try squeezing a little honey over the crumbs before rolling the ice cream into it.  Place balls on paper muffin wrappers and then set them on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Once finished with coating all the balls, return them to the freezer to set and harden.   They can remain in the freezer for a day or two if you want to make them ahead.

To serve:  Remove an ice cream ball from the muffin wrapper, place on a serving plate.  Drizzle chocolate syrup decoratively over the top.  Spray a nice size dollop of whipped cream on top, and garnish with a cherry.  Pretty as a picture!

   * * *

“The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.” Exodus 16:31

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MrsH’s Original Bit-O-Honey Pie

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MrsH’s Original Bit-O-Honey Pie

They say there is nothing new under the sun, well, I beg to differ. The idea for this pie popped in my head after stumbling across a Bake-off contest on social media. I looked and looked for a recipe, figuring someone out there had surely invented such a thing already, but nope, I couldn’t find a single one. Sooooo, having my creative kitchen muscles stretched a bit, I humbly present to you my prize-winning entry!  Okay, I didn’t really enter it in their contest, only because of a ban on refrigerated items, but my taste-testing family all gave me thumbs way up and a great BIG fancy blue ribbon, I mean hug. Perhaps next year the committee that decides such things will make an exception and allow refrigerated items, and then I’ll get to enter the Honey Festival bake-off challenge, officially, with this pie!  Until then, you get to enter it at your supper table festivals for a whole year ahead of its grand appearance at the BIG SHOW! And this way all your little resident foodies can help me decide if it’s worth entering in the contest next year!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup Uvalde Honey
  • ½ cup Almond Butter (I like it waaaay better with Walnut Butter, Crazy Go Nuts brand)
  • 1 cup chopped slivered almonds  (divided)
  • 1 Tsp. Almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp. Molasses
  • 1  8-oz pkg Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 small tub Cool Whip topping, thawed
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup dry malted milk powder
  • 1 Vanilla wafer crumb crust for 9” pie

DIRECTIONS

Make crumb crust: Preheat oven to 375 *F.  Whirl approximately 2/3 of a box of Nilla Wafers and ½ cup slivered almonds in a blender or food processor until fine crumbs. You should come close to about 1½ cup of crumbs.  If you end up with a little bit more, save the extra for a garnish on top of the pie.  To the 1½ cup of crumbs add 6 Tbsp of butter, melted, and mix together well in a large bowl.  Transfer the crumbs to a pie plate and press into place evenly along the bottom and up the sides with your fingers or a large metal spoon.  Bake 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Pie Filling: Using a mixer on low speed, beat together first nine ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well combined and creamy.  Scoop into crumb crust and spread until smooth on top.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 day before cutting and serving. 

Garnish with remaining crumbs, slivered almonds, a small piece of real honeycomb, and artificial bees from the hobby store, attached to the pie with toothpicks.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

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Our Big Fat End-of-the-school-year Classical Academy Toga Party

Costumes

  • Togas  (made from white sheets and king-size pillowcases), with golden rope for belts
  • Laurel wreath head garlands – given as prizes for Olympics  (made from green posterboard and spray painted with gold glitter paint)
  • Sandals  (made from cardboard and ribbon)

Decorations

  • Classroom door:  Pillars on each side, sheer white curtains draped over the top, and a “Phi-Beta-Kappa (ΦΒΚ) TOGA PARTY HERE” sign hanging crooked on the doorknob.  *P.S. Phi Beta Kappa means “Love of wisdom is the guide of life” or “Philosophy is the governor of one’s life.” (*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_Beta_Kappa)
  • Food table (in center of the room):  Push all the desks together to make a table and cover it with layers of colorful tablecloths and draped tulle.  Make a centerpiece of tall candlesticks and metal vases with flowers.  Set finger foods around on the table like a buffet.  Set out fixings for Gyros.  Set out platters of cheese curds or cubes, almonds, and varieties of olives; figs, dates, pomegranates, artichokes, and pedestal-bowls heaped with green, red, and purple grapes spilling over the sides.
  • Chase lounge chairs covered in sheets or cushions:  poolside or lawn lounge chairs are what I had in mind.
  • Music CD:  Animal House Soundtrack (some of it is fun and useful), and if you have a computer, or even better, a Roku and TV available there are some marvelous Greek instrumental music (You Tube) videos (some up to 2½ hours long) out there that offer both music and a slide show of Grecian landscapes that are awesome for ambience. 
  • Photo Booth props with backdrop:  Amazon.com

Food

  • Greek “grazing” table (grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, artichokes, almonds, gyro ingredients: flat bread, Tzatziki, roasted chickpeas or grilled chicken pieces, grape tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers, Fava dip, *cheese curds, white or purple grape juice in wine bottles, and Baklava for dessert
  • Wine goblets with handles on both sides (like sugar bowls w/o lids), which you can later use to explain an ancient Greek men’s game of throwing out the dregs.

Activities/Games

Foot & Hand Washing

I provided a tub of clean water on a mat beside the classroom entrance, and paper towels, for the kids to wash their own feet and hands.  As soon as they entered the room – with their correct “first” foot, I asked them to remove their shoes and then explained the custom of foot washing.  And then, since food was often eaten with hands, the Greeks also had a custom of hand washing before meals.

Symposium

I introduced several Table Talk discussion topics while the kids were sitting around in the recliners eating (I have a Box of Table Talk cards that I use for dinner table discussions – Food for Talk by Julienne Smith, which the teacher said she also has, that her mother sent to her. It must be a grandma thing! 😉 Too funny!).

Indoor games

I introduced Marbles, Dice, and KnuckleBones (which are available on Amazon: “Gogo Jacks, Rainbow Jacks, Osselets – New Vintage Game of Jacks Full Set of 5 with Instructions.” by On The Go) to the kids, explaining how each is played, and also…

Guess Who? (Family Box game, but replace caricatures that come in the game with my Greek versions – Greek teachers, philosophers, historians, artists, poets, playwrights, etc.  I made sheets of these which you can download and print for free).

I broke the class into 4 groups of 2 or 3 kids.  Each group started at one of the four games.  I gave them about 10 minutes to play their game and then signaled them to stand-up and move clockwise to the next game.

Crafts

I was prepared for two craft projects:  Making sandals, and Making earrings, but we ran out of time to do these.  (They were honestly a back-up plan for inclement weather anyway). 

Olympic games (Outdoors), End-of-the-school-year theme

  • Lunch box discus throw – I filled a lunch bag with dried beans to give it some weight
  • Pencil javelin throw – I used an old broom handle, painted it, and sanded a tip on one end
  • Long jump –  I used full plastic water-bottles for the weights, the larger the better
  • Alarm clock shot-put – I painted a clock face on a rock
  • Reading/Writing/Arithmetic Foot Race Relay – stack books up as obstacles on the track
  • Chariot/horse racing – I made stick horses, but wrap-around cardboard chariots where my other plan  “I have finished the race…”
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling  (after a popsicle break, the kids can pair up at the picnic tables)

Alternative Outdoor games

  • Medusa Freeze Tag

Story Time

  • Gracee read to the kids for the last 15 minutes out of Aesop’s Fables (FYI: Aesop was born in Greece).

These are some wonderful books that offer tons of ideas, games and crafts a few of which are featured in this post ( I purchased my copies used from online booksellers):

RULES TO GAMES

  • Knucklebones:

The game of knucklebones, also known as astragaloi in Greek and tali in Latin, can be played in several different ways. The simplest and perhaps most common form of this game, played by children, is comparable to the modern-day game of jackstones: all five small pieces are simultaneously tossed into the air, the goal being to catch as many as possible on the back of one hand. Another variation of the game involved players throwing one or more of the pieces into a small dirt hole in the ground or into the opening of a small vessel. He or she with the best aim would win.

  • Marbles

Marbles is a fun game that has been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Setting up the Game

Use yarn to make a circle on the carpet about 3 ft in diameter.

Place 5 of each players (usually three players) small marbles inside the circle, near the center, and arrange them in an X pattern.  The one big marble in your set of marbles is your “shooter” marble.

To determine who goes first have each player sit about 10 feet from a wall and shoot or roll their shooter marble to see who can get the closest. The closest player goes first. Next closest goes second, etc.

Taking a Turn

To take a turn the player kneels outside the ring and then To shoot your marble correctly, tuck your thumb, pinkie, and ring finger into your palm. Wrap your pointer finger around the marble, holding it against your thumb knuckle. Then, with your “knuckles down” on the ground, use your thumb to flick the marble from your finger towards the group of marbles in the center of the circle.

The first shot must be taken from the edge of the circle, but the next shot can be taken from the spot where the shooter landed.

Pick up all the marbles you knocked out of the circle and place them beside you, then have another turn. If no marble is knocked out of the circle, the other player then gets a turn.

Winning in Marbles

When the ring is empty of marbles the game is over.  The player with the most marbles at the end of the game is the winner.

Marble terminology

Taw – shooter marble. It’s usually a heavier marble than the ones in the center so it can knock them out of the circle.  Other names for the shooter marble include Aggie, boulder, Steele, king, and middleman.

Mibs or Kimmies – the marbles in the center of the circle.

Lagging – shooting or rolling the marble to a line to determine who gets to go first.

Mibster – marble player

If you and your friends have sets of collectable or keepsake marbles and you are pretty good players, you may choose to play for “Keepsies.” Most of the time Marbles are played “for fair,” which means that every player keeps their marbles, but sometimes players keep the special marbles they win. One of the first things you want to decide is if you are playing “keepsies” or “for fair” before you begin a game.

  • Yoyo

Here’s a great website for learning Yoyo tricks: https://yoyotricks.com/yoyo-tricks/beginner-tricks/

I picked up the cheap yoyo’s from the toy section at Walmart and they were kind of frustrating for the kids to use. The string wasn’t tied tight around the center of the yoyo, so it made it hard for them to get it wound back up again once the string came unwound. Grrrr. Maybe you can figure out a solution for this?

  • Guess Who? – Greek version

I made cards to replace the cards that came with the game. 

Click HERE for the FREE PRINTABLES I made, so you can make your own Greek Guess Who game.

How to Play Guess Who?

To play this game, first choose your game board and then flip all your frames upright by tipping the game boards.  Players sit facing each other so they can’t see the other player’s frames.  Shuffle the MYSTERY cards and place them face down where each player can reach them.  Each player chooses one MYSTERY card and places it in the slot in the front of their game board.

Notice the differences in each of your 24 faces.  Some are girls, some are boys, some have a red, or black, or yellow background, some are wearing hats, some have beards/mustaches, some are wearing clothes, some are looking to your right, etc. 

The youngest player ALWAYS goes first.  On your turn you may ask ONE yes or no question. Example: Does your person have a gray background?  Your opponent must then answer either “yes” or “no.” If they answer “yes” you may flip down all the faces on your board that do not have a gray background.  After you ask your ONE question, and flip down any faces you can, your turn is over. 

If you are an expert on famous Greek people in history, here are some questions you may want to ask for this special GREEK VERSION of the game:

Is your person a…

Sculptor…doctor…poet…politician…artist…philosopher…mathmetician…author… historian…playwright…astronomer?  

When it is your turn again, and you think you have figured out who the MYSTERY person is, you may guess.  Example: Is your person Archimedes?  But don’t guess until you are sure, otherwise if your guess is wrong you will lose the game.  If your guess is right you win the game.  When you win you may slide your game counter over one point for each game you win.  Begin a new game by flipping all your faces back up, and drawing a new MYSTERY card.   The first player to win five games is the champion.

Recipes

Roasted Chicken or Chickpea Gyros 

from LiveEatLearn.com

Simple and delicious Mediterranean inspired vegetarian Roasted Chickpea Gyros with refreshing tzatziki sauce.

 Prep Time 10 minutes

 Cook Time 20 minutes

 Total Time 30 minutes

 Servings 4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas or 1 ½ cup soaked chickpeas if starting from dry, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp paprika*
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned, skin removed, and chicken cut into bite size chunks
  • 6 pita flatbreads
  • 1 cup tzatziki  (see below)  **This can be purchased ready-made.  Look for it in the deli section at Walmart (they carry it at mine, so it is likely at yours as well)**
  • 1/4 red onion cut into strips
  • 2 lettuce leaves roughly chopped – I used baby spinach
  • 1 tomato sliced – I used grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • I sliced and chopped additional cucumber as a gyro topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat dry chickpeas with paper towel, removing any skins that may come off. Gently toss chickpeas with oil, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. – I poured olive oil over the chickpeas in a zip bag, and then I mixed the spices together and sprinkled over the oiled chickpeas and tossed them in the zip bag to coat.  This method worked very well!!!
  2. Roast: I oiled my baking sheet and let it get hot in the oven BEFORE I spread the chickpeas on it.  Spread chickpeas onto greased rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned but not hard.  I tested, tasted, tossed, and let my chickpeas bake for about another 10 minutes.
  3. Assemble: Spread some tzatziki onto one side of the pita, then sprinkle in ¼ of the chickpeas and add veggies. Fold in half and enjoy!

NOTES

  • *If you don’t like spicy foods, halve the amount of paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Taste a chickpea before baking and adjust flavors as needed. The yogurt does mellow the spiciness of the chickpeas.
  • If your pita breads crack when you fold them, cover them with a moist paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Assemble your sandwich immediately after microwaving.

World’s Best Tzatziki Recipe  

from LiveEatLearn.com

This is the best tzatziki recipe! Refreshing cucumber, creamy Greek yogurt, and zingy lemon make it the perfect condiment for just about everything.

 Prep Time 5 minutes

 Total Time 5 minutes

 Servings 3 cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, can use dairy-free
  • 1 cup shredded or diced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Thicken yogurt: Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth or paper towel for 30 minutes to 3 hours to remove excess moisture (can skip this step if you’re in a hurry).
  2. Prep cucumber: Meanwhile, sprinkle a pinch of salt onto shredded or diced cucumber and spoon into cheesecloth or paper towels. Let sit for a few minutes then wring it out to draw out moisture.
  3. Mix: Mix together yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTES

  • Add a touch of extra-virgin olive oil for flavor and shine.
  • Serve with pita, veggies, on Roasted Chickpea Gyros, or really anything!
  • The flavors become less tangy as you let them sit, so your tzatziki might just be best the next day.

Fava Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped red onion
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Paprika for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Place the split peas in a large saucepan with 5 cups of warm water. Set the burner to high heat and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Skim any foam that forms on the surface of the liquid, then add the red onion, scallion, and garlic. Return the liquid to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Once the peas are tender, turn off the heat and add the olive oil and salt. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture (or process in batches in a tabletop blender). Taste and add more salt as needed.

3. The fava will thicken as it cools. Serve topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika; provide crusty bread and/or sliced vegetables for dipping.

Baklava 

from fifteenspatulas.com

This heavenly baklava combines honey-soaked layers of flaky phyllo pastry with spiced walnuts. It’s a great make-ahead dessert!

Ingredients

For the Baklava:

  • 16 oz walnuts
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (plus a pinch of ground cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 boxes phyllo dough* thawed
  • 1 cup butter melted

For the Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup good quality honey**
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 strip orange peel
  • 1 strip lemon peel

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt until well chopped.
  3. To assemble the baklava, place 8 layers of phyllo dough one-by-one on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, brushing each lightly with butter.
  4. Spread 1/5 of the walnut mixture evenly on top (about 2/3 cup).
  5. Add another 5 layers of phyllo one-by-one, brushing each with butter, then add another layer of nuts. The total sequence should be phyllo layers of 8,5,5,5,5,8, with nuts in between those layers. 
  6. Carefully cut the Baklava into squares or triangles with a buttered knife.
  7. Bake the baklava for 50 minutes, until golden on the edges and tops.
  8. In the meantime, bring all the syrup ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick, and pour the hot syrup evenly over the hot baklava. 
  10. Let the baklava cool completely at room temperature for 8 hours (uncovered, to prevent sogginess). Then it’s ready to enjoy!
  11. Can be served with chocolate syrup drizzled over the top of each slice.

Notes

*Note fifteenspatualas said: “My 1-lb box of phyllo said it had 18 13×18″ layers, so I cut them in half, and had 36 sheets total for my 9×13 pan.” but I (mrshlovesjesus) had a 10½” X 15½” pan and I used 1 1/2 boxes of Phyllo.

**I cannot overstate how important it is to use a good honey here. If it comes in a bear shape bottle, probably steer clear. Ideally look for raw honey.

Print the following schedule and have it handy to review as you conduct your party

Party Schedule

11am               Set-up and decorate classroom (food table), lawn loungers, put CD in boom box, set Olympic games stuff by back door  (Remember to bring CAMERA and take pictures)

11:45am          When children arrive have them take off their shoes at the door and “wash” their feet and hands with wet paper towels.  Give them each a TOGA to put on and then let them pose and take Photo Booth pictures – serious faces and silly faces.

12:15pm          Symposium (let the kids help themselves to gyros, fruits, nuts, and “wine,” and while they are eating introduce a few discussion starters that we can all talk about from my box of Table Talk cards.  After the kids have eaten lunch let them get dessert – Baklava.

12:45pm          Indoor games (Yoyos, Marbles, Knucklebones, Guess Who?  Explain how each toy or game is played.  Divide the group into sets of 2 or 3 kids.  Give each group a toy/game to play with.  After 5 or 10 minutes have each group rotate to the next toy)

1:30pm            Crafts (make sandals & earrings) followed by Dancing to LouieLouie, and Twistin the Night Away.  At the end of that give the youngest kid in the group the Olympic torch and let him/her lead us all to the playground for the games.

2:00pm            Outdoor Olympic Games:

  • Lunch box discus throw
  • Pencil javelin throw
  • Water-bottle weights long jump
  • Alarm clock shot-put
  • Foot Race (books stacked as hurdles) -or- Horse/chariot Race (stick horses)
  • Thumb or Arm Wrestling

Demonstrate how each event is done and give each child a chance to practice a few times before competing. 

Give the kids a Popsicle break after they’ve completed the series of events, and then after that we will conduct a Pentathlon where each kid will do the whole series of events by themselves to see who can complete it in the fastest time. 

All competitors will be given a laurel wreath head garland in an awards ceremony.

3:15pm            Kids will return to classroom and prepare for dismissal, while Gracee reads to them a few Aesop’s Fables.

PARTY TIPS: I don’t know about you, but I am usually so forgetful about taking pictures.  I just get so busy keeping the party moving that I don’t think to stop and take pictures.  I also often forget to eat and get to the end of the party so famished that all I want to do is collapse in exhaustion!  So, if you are like me and want to have printed memories of your party, prearrange for someone to take pictures of everything from the table to the party itself – EVERYTHING, and also, make sure you eat something that will stick to your ribs BEFORE the party starts!!!!!  So you have energy to be your best, joyous self.

“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (KJV)

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The “Hofols” Celebrate Easter/Passover

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The “Hofols” Celebrate Easter/Passover

This past Easter we celebrated the holiday a little differently.  In actuality, EVERY Easter is just a little bit different from the one before it – a side effect of my vexatious A.D.D. I suspect!!!  This year my “passion” blossomed out of a “cavernous” fancy to “resurrect” (puns all very much intended) the Jewish roots of our Christian holiday and blend them altogether.  I wanted to celebrate Jesus, our Passover Lamb, especially since this year Passover fell on Good Friday (2019). Perhaps you’re looking for ideas how to celebrate and you’ll find something here that trips your trigger?

The “Steady Eddy’s” of our holiday usually include new dresses/outfits for church + shoes to go with them + the same basic food & drink (except this year I added LAMB to the menu) + an Egg Hunt. And there is always some sort of fun activities to follow. So, let’s get started with the menu, and then we’ll work our way on down to the ever-evolvingfun stuff at the end…

.

— THE MENU —

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HAM

A nice 10-lb spiral cut honey smoked ham. 

Make a Chamoy glaze of apricots (2 cans plus the syrup), honey (1 cup), and spicy chili peppers (2 or 3 fresh green Cayenne peppers finely chopped/ground – or ½ tsp Cayenne powder).  Place glaze ingredients in a pan on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer until reduced and thickened.

Heat ham in the oven, wrapped tightly in foil for about 1 hr and 40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Place ham on serving platter and pour glaze over ham just before serving.

LAMB CHOPS

6 Lamb Chops

Preheat outdoor grill with charcoals, preparing to add mesquite or applewood chips just before grilling.  While the charcoals are getting ready prepare the sauce and the lamb.

Sauce:  ½ cup Olive Oil, ½ cup chopped onion, 3 cloves peeled and sliced garlic. Sauté in a sauce pan until onions are translucent, and then remove from heat.  Place onions, oil, and garlic in a blender (I use my Bullet) also adding 2 Tablespoons low sodium Soy Sauce, 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon fresh Rosemary needles, 2 Tablespoons course ground mustard, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and about ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  Blend until thoroughly emulsified.  Set aside.

Rub lamb chops with salt and pepper.

Separate charcoals and sprinkle with wood chips.  As soon as they begin to smoke, place chops on grill about 6 inches above heat and close the lid.  Let them grill undisturbed for about 4 or 5 minutes.  Lift the lid and flip the chops over to the other side.  Close the lid and let grill for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Lift the lid and check the internal temp of each chop.  Continue flipping and cooking until each chop reaches an internal temp of 135 degrees (medium rare).  Don’t eyeball it – use a thermometer for perfect results.  The moment they reach temp, remove them from the grill, placing them on a dish.  Let them rest for a minute or two, then drizzle each with sauce and serve with a sprig of Rosemary for garnish. 

NOTE: I wish I could remember where I found this recipe so I could give them credit and kudos!!!!  If you know, please let me know in the comments. And I’ll tell you, I am not a fan of lamb…  (I just don’t care for the gamey flavor.  I don’t like goat or goat cheese for the same reason) …BUT THIS LAMB was a wonderful surprise.  My family LOVED it and have begged if I will make this every year from now on.  So, if you don’t really care for lamb either, you might want to give this recipe a try.  I promise it will change your mind.

TATER TOT HOT DISH

32 oz. bag of Tater Tots

1 cup onion, chopped

1 16-oz container French Onion Dip

1 jalapeno, minced

2 cups shredded Colby cheese

1 10-oz can Cream of Chicken Soup

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt (or more to taste)

1 can French Fried Onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large casserole dish.  Mix together the Onion Dip, jalapeno, cheese, soup, garlic powder, and salt.  Toss in chopped onion and frozen tots.  Use hands to mix tots and sauce all together.  Arrange tot mixture in casserole dish.  Top with French Fried Onions.  Bake in oven about 60 minutes.

SWEET PEA SALAD

2-lb package frozen sweet peas, thawed

½ Red onion, diced

1 ½ cup Cheddar Cheese, cut into pea size cubes

8 slices bacon, fried crispy and crumbled

3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped (optional)

½ cup Sour Cream

¼ cup Mayo

1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix together the sauce ingredients and carefully stir them into the thawed peas.  Add the red onion and cheese and carefully incorporate.  Taste to make sure there is enough salt and pepper.  Place in serving dish and top with bacon for garnish. 

DEVILED EGGS

1 dozen eggs, hard boiled (place cold eggs or fresh eggs in cool tap water in a pan big enough to fully cover the eggs with water, bring to a rolling boil on high heat on the stove and boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, let sit 5 minutes and then pour off water.  Let eggs cool.  Eggs can then be peeled and placed in a zip bag in the refrigerator overnight.)

Cut eggs in half, remove yolks to a small bowl.  Mash yolks with a fork.  Add about ¼ to ½ cup of Mayo or Miracle Whip to them until a thick creamy texture is achieved.  Also add 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard, and 2 Tablespoons each finely diced onion and sweet pickle relish.  Stir until well combined.  Drop dollops of yolk mixture into the split egg-white halves.  Sprinkle with sweet paprika.  Garnish each egg with finely chopped green onion or chives.  If you have sweet pickles, slice into “pennies” and press a penny into the center of each egg.  Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately.

HOT CROSS BUNS

I usually use a hot roll mix and follow package directions, except to add a 1/3 cup of dried currants and 2 Tablespoons of orange zest to the mixed dough.  Bake as directed.  Let cool completely.  Mix an icing of 1 cup powdered sugar and about a Tablespoon of milk (thin with additional milk a tiny drop at a time until desired thickness).  Place icing in a zip bag and cut the corner off.  Pipe a cross on top of each roll.  Garnish with a few more currants and some orange zest.

This year I cheated and purchased frozen cinnamon rolls, and added the currants and some orange zest as a garnish after icing.

RHUBARB CRUNCH

Filling:

2 packages frozen rhubarb (or 5 cups fresh)

2 granny smith apples peeled, cored, and chopped

½ tsp. salt

Splash of lemon juice

½ cup of sugar

Stir together and place in a buttered casserole dish.

Topping:

2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 ½ sticks of butter, softened to room temperature

1 tsp Vanilla

¼ tsp salt

I sometimes mix this all together in a gallon size zip bag the night before and let sit on the counter until baking time.  It saves me time later and gives the butter time to soak up the flour and oats and lends a nice crispiness to the finished product.

Serve warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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Beverages:


Sweet Tea, Lemonade, Lemon water, or wine

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Sunday Dinner is usually served immediately after the egg hunt.  The children give the blessing and then we all start stuffing our faces. 

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— THE EGG HUNT —

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart.”  Jeremiah 19:13

This year’s egg hunt mostly consisted of plastic eggs strewn all over in the yard, all the way around the house. A few were perched in the limbs of the trees and some other slightly more difficult hidey spots. As per grand-daughter’s request I hid special GOLDEN eggs (1 per kid) in the more difficult places. They got to redeem those for one special prize each – their Easter Baskets!  I put a little note inside each golden egg which told the kids where to look for their “special surprises.”  The special Easter Baskets were filled with a few candies, some little toys, jewelry, Knick knacky things, and a pretty journal and fancy pen for each girl, which they’ll get to use as journals all summer.

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— THE FUN STUFF —

Food – done….. Egg Hunt – done….. Let the games begin! As I said earlier we did a PASSOVER theme. Our Passover activities commenced down on the banks of the little brook that weaves a path by our backyard. It was the perfect setting for our first activity, saving baby Moses!

Saving Baby Moses

I made each girl a little bamboo raft (we have so much of it growing along our river front, it was a ready material that cost me nothing).  Walmart had perfect little 6” baby dolls for about $2 each – I bought one for each girl. 

Our youngest granddaughter wasn’t feeling well, so she went down for a nap while we did all the activities with her sister.  But later, when she awoke, we did the whole thing all over again for her, exactly as we had done for her sister. 

The girls wrapped their baby Moses in a blue blanket, laid him in his raft, and then walked down into the river and placed him on the water and let him float away as we all looked on.  As baby Moses floated away we all prayed that God would save baby Moses’ life, just like in the Bible! 

It really worked out that the one granddaughter was napping when the other granddaughter did this, so it seemed to each child as if there had only been one baby Moses.  If they had both been involved for the shared experience, we would have only floated one baby Moses.

Little baby Moses slowly floated away and when he was finally out of sight I told the story of how Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, how he then grew up to be a young man, and then found out that he was a Hebrew. He accidentally caused an Egyptian to die and then in fear ran away and lived with a Midianite priest and his daughters in the desert. That’s where he met God on a mountaintop in a burning bush, and God told him to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go free.

The Plagues and Pharaoh Games

(I had prepared each of the plagues days before and had them ready in a box for this exercise).

I told the children how Moses went to Pharaoh to ask him to let the people go, but Pharaoh said, “NO!!!!!”  I instructed the kids to yell, “NO!!!!!” whenever I asked them if Pharaoh let the people go.

The first plague was to turn the Nile River into blood:  I poured water into a glass for each kid and added red drink powder to it.  Then we tossed in some Swedish Fish to represent the fish that died.  Then I asked, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!”  – and I pointed to the kids to say, “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a second plague – Frogs:  I had purchased some sticky frogs from Walmart and put them in a big jar.  I handed the children the jar of frogs and let them take the frogs out and stick them to us and squish them and play with them for a bit.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and I pointed to the children who said), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a third plague – Lice:  I used confetti eggs, called Cascarones here in south Texas, and divided two dozen of them between each of us and we all got to break them on each other’s heads.  This always causes lots of laughing.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and I pointed to the children who said), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a fourth plague – Flies:  I used black pipe cleaners, cut into about 4” pieces and twisted them into wings and a body shape and I filled a glass jar full of them.  I took the lid off this jar and dumped the flies in the kids’ hands and let them put them on us grown-ups, in our hair, down our shirts, etc.  They then had fun picking them up off the ground and tossing them around some more.  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a fifth plague – the dead animals:  I found a cheap container of farm animals at Walmart. I pulled it out, opened the lid and dumped the animals out, instructing the children to put all the animals on their backs with their feet up in the air, which they happily did.  Some would fall over as they were setting others upside down so it took a while to get them all to “die.”  I talked about how stinky that must have been.  Pee-Yoooo!  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a sixth plague – Boils: Now, I know you are probably going to think I’ve lost my marbles on this one, but I cut up about 6 panty-liners into 3 pieces each and wrote “BOILS” on each piece with a Sharpie marker.  I put them in a jar.  I opened this jar and let the kids take the BOILS out one by one and peel the paper off the back, and stick them to all of us on our bare arms and legs and faces, and we stuck a bunch of them on the kids as well.  The sticky is sort of irritating to the skin after a while so it produced a decent effect, but it didn’t hurt to pull them off later. Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said (and the kids yelled), “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent a seventh plague – Hail: I had purchased several boxes of ping pong balls (6 balls for $1 at Walmart).  I gave each person a handful of balls and on the count of three we all simultaneously tossed the balls in the air and let them fall on our heads.  We then picked them up and tossed them at each other for a little while until I said, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said…“NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So God sent an eighth plague – Locusts:  For this plague I produced a zip bag with a leaf of romaine lettuce per each person of us.  Since locusts are veggie eaters, on my mark we would have a lettuce eating contest.  1-2-3-crunch, crunch, crunch!!!  Hey this is one way to get kids to eat their veggies.  Ha!  And then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said … “NO, NO, NO!!!” (-muffled through their mouthfuls of lettuce).

So God sent a ninth plague – darkness: For this one I had purchased a game of Blindfolded Twister.  It wasn’t a good thing to play outside, where we were at the time, so I improvised and had the kids cover their eyes and try to find mommy, then daddy, then grandpa, then grandma, then sister.  (We did play the Twister game later, in the house and it was perfect).  Then I said – “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, will you let my people go!” but Pharaoh said … “NO, NO, NO!!!” 

So Moses informed Pharaoh that if he didn’t let the slaves go that God would send a plague of death of the firstborns among the Egyptians.  Moses told all the Hebrew slaves to kill a baby lamb and use the blood to paint on their doorposts, then cook and eat the baby lamb with unleavened bread.  And that night when the spirit of death came to Egypt it PASSed-OVER the houses with the lamb’s blood, but the Egyptian firstborns all died, including Pharaoh’s son, which made Pharaoh sad and mad enough to say “GO, GO, GO!!!”

Here’s how we did this next part…

I told the girls that Jesus came to set us free from our slavery to sin.  The Bible says that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). In the history of mankind there has been no one who was without sin – only Jesus.  And that is why He was the perfect Lamb of God – to take away our sins.

John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

I gave each girl a little lamb, a nail, a Popsicle stick cross, and a hammer, and we nailed their lambs to their crosses.  I explained that if that lamb was a real lamb the nail would make the lamb bleed. 

I then gave each girl two hearts cut from foam board that I had punched holes in all around the edge.  I gave them each a needle and thread so they could stitch the two pieces together to make a pocket.  As they stitched I explained that we all have to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus (which means we have to turn from our sinful nature and open our hearts up to Him).  Once their hearts were sewn together I gave the girls red paint, representing the blood of the lamb, and we used a clump of weeds to paint the “blood” on their hearts.  And then we asked Jesus to come into our hearts – which was represented by placing the lamb-crosses inside the pockets of the hearts they made and painted.

I explained that we all have a body and we all have a spirit.  Because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden our bodies will someday die, but our spirits will either go on to live with Jesus in heaven or with the devil in hell.  If we prepare our hearts and let Jesus come in to us, even though our bodies die, the second death – the death of our spirit – will PASS-OVER and we’ll get to live with Jesus in heaven forever.

Communion

At the Last Supper, Jesus said His body was broken for us, and He took bread and broke it and asked His disciples to eat of that bread in remembrance of Him.   

I took a saltine cracker and broke it and divided the pieces with everyone.  Then we partook of the Lord’s body which was broken for us.

Jesus, at the Last Supper, then took the cup of wine and said it represented His blood that was shed for us for the remission of our sins.  He asked His disciples to drink of it in remembrance of Him until the day that He comes back for all of us.

I then poured us each a little cup of wine, and we partook of the Lord’s blood that was shed for us. 

The little one wasn’t a huge fan of “real” wine! Ha! So she chased it with a swig of bloody Nile water.

Family Movie Time

After our riverside adventures, we all got a heaping helping of dessert and snuggled up on the couch in the mancave to watch The Ten Commandments (w/Charleton Heston) together as a family.  This was always a tradition in my son-in-law’s growing up life to watch that movie at Easter, and what a lovely tradition to continue. 

A Craft Nightcap

We girls left the mancave for one final thing – crafting the Red Sea.  After asking Jesus into our hearts, the Red Sea event is kind of like a water baptism.  First we are saved by Jesus, then we are baptized.  After that, our souls make the long journey to our heavenly “promised land.”

And that was our Easter/Passover of 2019! I hope if you have the chance to do this with your family for your next Easter that you are as blessed as we were by the experience. All glory to God!

He is not here for He [Jesus] is risen!

Risen indeed!

“I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and recieve you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

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Leprechaun Traps

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Leprechaun Traps

Ms Treva, since this was totally your idea and I had never heard of such a thing, I wanted to share with you how it all turned out. Please bask in all your craftsmanship my dear friend…

I am a big fan of Saint Patrick’s Day. I suppose it could be the corned beef and cabbage simmering in the crock pot and the family gathered around the table to share in its deliciousness, or the multitude of Irish blessings being passed around and spoken in a make-believe Irish accent all day, of course. Maybe it’s the promise of spring just starting to round that corner from the long cold winter, or the warm, lavish rains that promise to bring forth life in the plants and trees. It might be the colorful rainbows and puffy white clouds that decorate the blue skies above. Perhaps its the hope that I’ll finally find a 4-leaf clover in spite of my life-long futile search (I’m convinced they don’t exist), but I love that our lawns are begining to turn green again and I don’t care if it’s mostly clover and weeds so long as it’s green! And what can be more visually appealing than the beautiful wildflowers that clothe the meadows as chirping birds and mischievous squirrels hail that it’s time to reset our clocks (gosh what a stupid practice – I’m so bloody tired).

So, my Bestie and I were chatting by phone a few days ago and she suggested a fun something to do with the grandkids this Saint Patrick’s Day —– Leprechan Traps. Have you heard of them? I never had. She told me all about them and I decided it would be a fun, not a lot of hassle, way to bring some fun to the holiday and pass the hours bonding with my two favorite people out in the beautiful sunshine.

First we goobled some dinner…

…And then the girls and I sat down to make our Leprechaun traps.  We used some old shoe boxes I found out in my garage, plus some construction paper, glitter paint, and wooden kabob skewers.  We sure could have made them a whole LOT cuter, but we were in a bit of a hurry, anxious to hopefully catch one of these little creatures. So once the girls had hastily constructed two traps each, we were ready to go find some good places in the yard to set them up, hopefully some places with clusters of lush, green clover. 

We hoped to make up for our lack of decorating panache by dusting the grass and shamrocks with lots of glitter, as Leprechauns are attracted to things that sparkle (so I am told).  The girls decided they would fill their empty glitter tubes with water and leave them under the traps to draw the Leprechaun’s attention.  We tried to be very quiet and sneaky in case the Leprechauns were watching us and listening. 

Since a watched trap never catches anything we went back in the house and granny Googled to see if anyone had ever gotten a picture of a Leprechaun, so we could see what they looked like.  Alas, we were pleasantly surprised to find someone had.  They sure must have been sneaky, and had a really really nice camera with a big telephoto lens to catch this little guy taking a siesta on a tree branch.  Isn’t he cute?  How lucky for us to get to see what one looks like!

To pass the time we decided to watch a movie and give the leprechauns some time to be lured to our traps.  About halfway through the movie we checked outside the window and found one of our traps had been sprung (thanks to grandpa who was secretly in on the charade ;)).  Oh how exciting!!!  The girls and I could barely get outside fast enough, and when we did we found all four of our traps were sprung.  We were a little bit nervous at first to lift the boxes, sure that one of the little guys would dash out and maybe kick us or try to bite us as they ran away.  But we mustered some bravado and carefully lifted each box (in retrospect a person standing back with a fishing net would have been good for effect) hoping to have caught a leprechaun, but darnit, not a one. Shucky darns!!!

But, to our utter delight, our sweet little guy must have appreciated the clover in our yard, or the glitter we sprinkled all over, or perhaps felt sorry for us for our shabby looking traps, because there were little presents under each box.  The leprechauns must have left them. Each had a small black kettle filled with either gold nuggets gum, or gold foil covered chocolate coins.  We gathered up all the little gifts and as we were walking back to the house, we spotted a big black kettle by the well house with even more little surprises inside. The girls squealed!  How awesome was this?  Our sweet little leprechaun had left the girls some fun little craft projects to do, along with some hair ties, and candy necklaces.  He must have liked their giggles as he spied us setting those traps.

We spent the rest of the day doing our little crafts, eating second helpings of dinner, making an Irish whiskey cake with whipped cream and sliced strawberries on top, using the freshly picked strawberries we picked the day before from a farm outside of Poteet.  It was all very delicious. 

Gosh, what a fun Saint Patrick’s Day!  Who knew you could catch leprechauns in south Texas? 

Of course, everybody knows there’s no such thing as leprechauns, right?

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“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself toward godliness.” 1 Timothy 4:7

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

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The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — Narnia Party

I thought I’d share a recent school party that I did for my granddaughter’s class. She and her classmates have been reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and as the kids were nearing the end of the book their amazing (and I do mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!!!) teacher asked if I would like to put together a party to help them celebrate finishing the book. “Well heck ya,” I told her! “I love that stuff” (which I’m fairly certain she already knew 😉 )! Anyway, I’m sharing with y’all, just in case someone else out there has the opportunity and would like some ideas.

The Wardrobe Doors

I made a fairly crude set of wardrobe doors to decorate the classroom door entrance, out of a large cardboard box (I think it came from a furniture store). I measured the classroom door and then cut the cardboard to fit using a square and a utility knife. Then I painted the cardboard with some mahogany colored varnish I had leftover from a furniture refinishing project I did a while back. I let the cardboard dry for about a week and then I cut the doors in half lengthwise. I didn’t have a lot of time to make these doors, otherwise I would have put a lot more thoughtful detail into them, but at least I gave them handles.

Since the door frame on the classroom was metal, the only way I knew of to be able to attach these doors was to use clear packaging/shipping tape all along the henge edges to tape the doors to the door frame. This worked fairly well. Perhaps Duct tape would have been better??? Of course, the doors wouldn’t stay closed once they were hung, so we had to use a small cardboard dowel rod and insert it in the door handles to hold them closed until all the kids arrived and could walk in together to discover the transformation of their classroom. Their teacher kept this all a total surprise!

I used an inexpensive shower curtain rod (purchased from Walmart for about $5) to hang some long robes and long dresses on. Beings this is south Texas nobody had long coats we could use, and I wasn’t sure how much weight that rod would hold either. Anyway, as soon as the kids opened the wardrobe doors, all they saw was a closet full of clothing which they had to walk through.

It’s Always Winter in Narnia

Once inside it was a winter wonderland. I had cut out about 25 paper snowflakes and hung them to the ceiling with string and push pins, all over the classroom.

It’s not a party without food…

Soooo, I thought it would be fun to celebrate all the foods featured in the book/movie:

For the White Witch’s table I made a White Hot Chocolate in a large thermos and had glass mugs for the kids to drink it out of. I glued little snowflakes on each mug. Next to that was a round box filled with Turkish Delight, tied with a green silk ribbon!

I used quilt batting to cover the table in “snow.” I placed a framed quote from the book, and a large sample box of a big variety of flavored Turkish Delight, which I ordered from amazon.com about a week ahead of the party. Oh my gosh! It’s delicious. I had never had it before, have you? I want to order another box just for myself. Then again, I’ll just eat the whole thing and it does nothing for my girlish figure, so I probably better not!!!

The Beaver’s table needed to feature fish and potatoes, and marmelade roll-ups. But, as much as I love “fish n’ chips” I didn’t figure the kids would be as big of fans – so I went with Swedish fish and Goldfish crackers, and potato chips. I thought the ones with skins on would be the coolest so I went with TGIFriday’s potato chips. I served the little morsels in these perfect little wooden bowls that my husband made for me several months ago. And I covered the table in a brown fur table cloth.

Now if you are familiar with the story, the Beaver’s had beer with their supper. But they also had tea, which is a bit more kid-friendly. I went with iced tea. And after trying, and failing, to make the little sandwiches into roll-ups, I decided to just cut them into triangles. I was surprised that the kids liked marmelade, but they ate the whole platter!

Finally was Mr. Tumnus and Lucy’s Tea Party table. I set this table with real teacups, and a spread of “sugar topped cupcakes” and TOAST with honey butter. I brewed a big pot of tea and set out sugar cubes and lemon slices so the kids could doll up their cups as they wished.

I made the honey butter using a stick of real butter and added about 1/4 cup of honey and a tsp of cinnamon to it. And the cupcakes I made with a yellow cupcake batter and a brown sugar buttercream frosting that is out of this world. I found it when I went looking for a frosting I could make without powdered sugar. OMG! They were beyond delicious!!!!! In fact, this might be my favorite frosting of all time!!!!! You must try it! Once I frosted the cupcakes, I sprinkled them with sugar sprinkles. They turned out pretty!

So there you have it…our party in a nutshell! The kids were so excited!!!! It was all the reward I would ever need to get to watch their faces as they entered the classroom with wide-eyed wonder and awe. They saw the snowflakes and started jumping. They wanted to keep them for souvenirs, which of course I obliged. And I even promised to come teach them how to make them some afternoon. They ate everything there was to eat and some of every beverage. And when it was all said and done, they each wrote notes thanking me for all my efforts, and telling me how much they loved the party and will never forget it as long as they live! Well, if that doesn’t make your heart go pitter pat, I don’t know what would. I must be the luckiest ol’ gal on the block to have such a wonderful opportunity to lavish love on this precious group of kiddos. I feel so very honored that their teacher trusted me for this task.

The kids drank and ate their fill while they watched the movie version of the book. And when the party was over, the kids found their way back to the real world by the soft glowing light of the street lamp!

What a blast! And there you have it!!!!! You could make this a classroom party for your kids, as I have done, or you could use it for a theme birthday party, or even celebrate summer book reading with a theme party. The kids will remember it forever!!!!

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the LORD and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

Grandpa’s Treasure Hunt Conspiracy

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Grandpa’s Treasure Hunt Conspiracy

My husband has let me in on a little covert operation he has been planning for his granddaughters, and it tickles me so much I’ve decided to blog about it.  He’s been scheming this thing in his head for months.  The first thing he did to get the ball rolling was hunt for an appropriate treasure box, which he found at Hobby Lobby, except that it needed a sturdier bottom.  It didn’t take much to just attach a piece of wood.  He then began filling it with treasures: handfuls of pennies that he spray-painted gold and silver, and a few other miscellaneous discarded junk jewelry pieces that once belonged to his mother – probably things she found at garage sales and never did anything with.  

And then this is where I became involved in the delicious conspiracy.  He wanted some help coming up with some sort of little story, not a treasure map, but a story that would pique their little interests and ignite some spontaneous junior sleuthing.  He thought it would be neat if the story was written on parchment paper and then rolled up and tucked in a bottle with a cork in the top.  He planned to place this bottle in a sort of inconspicuous place somewhere along the path by the river where the girls could stumble upon it while outside adventuring with their grandpa.

Now mind you, grandpa has already been out and surveyed where he plans to bury this treasure, and deposit the bottle with the message inside, and he’s also done a fair amount of trail grooming through the tundra of bamboo we have growing along the banks of our river.  In fact, as he took me on a tour, he pointed out the clever touches he’s added — like putting googlie eyes on some random stalks of the bamboo, so he can say to the girls, “Do you get the feeling you’re being watched?” And then wait for them to get it!  Ha! Ha!

It was this curious little detail that sparked my imagination for a story.  I sat down with my trused computer and after a few minutes, this was what I came up with:  

THE TRAP HAS BEEN SET!!!!!!!

We are both so excited about this and hoping we can pull it off.  Our imaginations are spilling over with delirious day-dreams of how the girls will react.  Will they truly believe they’ve found an old old letter in a bottle, and that it leads them to a real buried treasure?  I think both our hearts might just burst with excitement.  But we’ve got to play it cool.  We’ve got to both stay in character, as if nothing whatsoever is up.  In fact, I’m just going to stay indoors the day they come over (if I can possibly contain myself) and let grandpa do all the clever charades.  I’ll just try to act surprised when they come screaming into the house with stuff in their hands, and talking so fast I can’t even understand them.  Hee hee!!!!  And we’ll sit down on the floor and I’ll let them tell me all about the letter they found and I’ll let them read it to me, and I’ll let them explain how they looked for the treasure box and where they ended up finding it, and we’ll sort through all the stuff in their box, and I’ll take a group selfie with my cell phone and probably post it on Facebook (and here later, of course), and it will all be grand!  Just grand!!!!!    (I hope!) 

“Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”   Psalm 127:3

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty warrior; so are the children of one’s youth.  Happy are the [GRANDPARENTS] whose quiver is full!”     Psalm 127:4-5



UPDATE: The plan turned out better than we could have ever anticipated. The girls were delirious with excitement. Oh the sweet faith of a little child to so easily believe … almost makes a person ashamed to exploit it. But how fun to see them with so much enchanted enthusiasm, and to listen to the little wheels turning in their minds trying to solve a puzzle, trying to uncover a mystery, embarking on an epic adventure, and to hear them share their little theories with each other for where to look and why. It was as delightful an experience as any storybook or children’s film that’s ever captured your imagination. Sooooo much fun!!!!!

After a year or so I came clean with the grandchildren, telling them that it was all just a made up story. I didn’t ever want them to think Jesus was also just a made up story. I could see the disappointment in the youngest one’s eyes, and the oldest, well, she seemed okay with knowing. We talked about how it is sometimes very easy to believe a fantastical story, especially if the person telling it is persuasive. As Christians we need to be on guard against such things, and weigh everything against the word of God. So, this was a good lesson in being gullible. But also, make believe it’s not all bad. Think of all the books and movies out there. They are not all true. Some are soooo good that we want to read them or watch them over and over. Maybe this little treasure adventure will spark their imaginations to want to write non-fictional stories as they get older, like Harry Potter, or Alice in Wonderland, or the bamboo people who live in the river?